A man struggles to manage the dark trauma of his youth, and the havoc it continues to wreak on his adulthood.
When James Davis was a young teen, he suffered under the abusive tyranny of his father, Frank, an irredeemable alcoholic. James’ father eventually turned his anger toward his wife, Brenda, and he finally killed her in a fit of rage. But then a mysterious man charged into the house and strangled Frank to death. James’ rescuer, Alistair, demanded that his part in the tragic affair be kept a secret, and the teen obliged. Years later, James is lost in shiftless ennui, stuck in a dead-end job, and utterly alone. He finally makes a friend at the gym, Mark, who convinces him to see a therapist, the young and beautiful Natalie Pruitt. For the first time in years, James feels a tinge of hope that he might be able to turn his life around, and find a sliver of animating purpose. But then, Alistair inexplicably shows up, and aggressively inserts himself into James’ life. It’s not clear whether Alistair intends to help James repair his broken existence out of some avuncular impulse, or use him as an instrument for his own twisted ends: “Because of a moment in time of their shared past, Alistair was a part of him, for better or worse, and James knew he would never truly be free.” But James is scared for his life, and for the lives of those close to him, as suddenly there seems to be a killer at large in this previously sleepy Maryland suburb. Debut author Logsdon adeptly captures James’ troubled childhood, intermittently flashing back to scenes from it, while also including narrative vignettes depicting the volatile relationship between his parents. At one point, the young James muses about Frank’s cruelty: “The man knew how to make his verbal assaults cut like a knife,” right in Brenda’s “most vulnerable places.” This is a sepulcher tale, and squeamish readers may struggle with some of the grim details, vividly conveyed, about abuse and murder. But the author slowly, chillingly leads readers to a suspenseful conclusion that makes some forbearance of the book’s gloomier aspects well worth it. This is an unpredictable and heart-pounding mystery.
A psychological thriller about an enigmatic killer that’s both inventive and unflinching.