A New Hampshire cop tries to piece together a mysterious woman’s life following a car accident and discovers nothing is as it seems.
Gardner (Fear Nothing, 2014, etc.) puts Sgt. Wyatt Foster front and center in this overly complicated thriller, while corporate security expert—and Foster’s new girlfriend—Tessa Leoni, from the 2011 Love You More, plays a distant second fiddle. When Foster is called to a single-car accident on a rural road, it seems like driver Nicole Frank simply drank too much Scotch and drove off the road. But Nicole, who miraculously survives the crash, insists that her daughter, Vero, is still missing. Foster and his team launch a massive search until Nicole’s husband, Thomas, arrives at the hospital and tells the police that there is no child: Nicole suffered a traumatic brain injury (actually several), causing her to conjure an imaginary daughter. As the details of Nicole’s original injury—she suspiciously fell down both her basement and front stairs within the span of a few months—emerge, Foster and the reader become more, rather than less, confused. Nicole’s history unspools in calculated sound bites, with each episode ending in an artificial cliffhanger. According to Nicole—who claims to be “the woman who died twice”—she escaped a horrific childhood in a brothel known as the Dollhouse, a place that’s the nexus of the mystery surrounding Vero, who may or may not be a figment of her addled brain.
Gardner tacks on so many twists that even the most astute reader will be confused, and even the intriguing resolution, when it finally comes, doesn’t answer all the plot’s unnecessary questions.