Novelist Regan (Finding Claire Fletcher, 2017, etc.) is back with the second thriller in her series starring Claire Fletcher and Detective Connor Parks. Again we have a psychopath, and this one’s a very busy serial killer.
Leah Holloway, a middle-class mom, drives her SUV full of kids through a guardrail and right into the American River. She wills herself to drown, though Claire, fishing nearby, manages to rescue the kids, Leah’s three and her neighbor Rachel Irving’s twins. This is against the backdrop of what the press is calling the Soccer Mom Strangler murders. While most of the Sacramento PD is on the Strangler case, Connor and his partner, Detective Jade Webb, are assigned to figure out why Leah Holloway—a woman with no obvious stressors—would off herself. Bit by bit, they uncover threatening ugliness (the Holloways’ dog was poisoned, there was broken glass in the kids’ sandbox, the car-seat straps were cut), DNA tests that don’t make sense, and other disturbing or curious things. And then, through flashbacks, we learn of D.J. North, a hunky young creep, supposedly Rachel’s nephew from back East, who may have been involved with Leah. Much more terrifying developments ensue. Regan’s writing always impresses. For D.J., “reality became a vague, easily discarded, suggestion.” And her insight into character runs from Leah’s having several different drawers in her mind where bad stuff can be stowed (e.g., the “Did Not Happen” drawer) to the snarky depiction of Leah’s hapless husband, Jim, who is so clueless and helpless that he doesn’t even realize what a selfish jerk he is. And the final revelations are properly ingenious.
Layered characters perpetrate diabolical deeds under the sunny facade of a Mayberry-esque town in this clever thriller.