In Scottoline’s latest family-centered thriller (Accused, 2013, etc.), Jake Buckman lets son Ryan drive the family car on a back road. Very bad idea.
The car hits someone, and she’s dead. Faced with the prospect of his teenager’s life being ruined, Jake tells him to get back in the car, and they drive away. “[D]on’t tell Mom,” Jake warns; he loves his wife, but Pam has the personality you’d expect of a superior court judge (judgmental), and their marriage is still recovering from Jake’s decision to start his own business, which has made him a mostly absentee husband and father. He’s now “one of the top-ten ranked financial planners in southeastern Pennsylvania,” though his planning skills aren’t evident as Jake ineptly tries to cover their tracks. He also has a terrible time keeping his son from confessing once they learn that the dead girl is Ryan’s high school classmate Kathleen Lindstrom. It takes more than 100 pages for the plot to involve anything other than Jake’s nerves, Pam’s suspicions and Ryan’s guilty wails, all of which are believable but not very interesting. Sleazy blackmailer Lewis Deaner livens things up, especially after he turns up murdered. If the police find those cellphone pictures Deaner had of Jake and Ryan at the scene of the crime, Jake will be a suspect. And once Ryan has blurted out the truth to his mother, furious Pam might be just as happy to see Jake in jail. The killer’s identity isn’t much of a surprise, since he’s the only character with any individual traits apart from the Buckmans and the cops, but the final twist comes out of nowhere, 10 pages from the end.
Very slow off the mark, though once blackmail and murder enter the picture, Scottoline moves things along with her customary professionalism, if scant credibility.