Dark doings in Connecticut.
Defense attorney John O’Rourke knew he’d win no popularity contests when he agreed to represent Greg Merrill, the serial killer who liked to torture his female victims until barely still alive, then leave them bound to breakwaters or jetties until high tide drowned them. John is uncomfortably aware that even his own children don’t think much of his legal heroics on behalf of such a monster. Teenaged Teddy just wishes his father did something else for a living, but young Maggie still adores her handsome daddy. Both children are coping with the aftermath of their mother’s recent death in a car accident—geez, wonders Teddy, can’t Dad stop hanging around Death Row and come home once in a while? Several babysitters have come and gone, and John is desperate. No wonder he mistakes Kate Harris, a quiet stranger, for another candidate from the agency, while she’s really a marine biologist looking for her missing sister Willa. Kate and John’s life stories begin to unfold: John’s wife had an affair with the local lighthouse keeper; Kate’s sister had an affair with Kate’s charming but irresponsible husband Andrew. So, yes, Kate and John are Free to Love Again. But first . . . where’s Willa? Last seen at a local bed-and-breakfast, Willa has seemingly vanished. Danger lurks! Though Merrill is in prison, a copycat has struck, leaving his victim to drown on a breakwater. Will Willa be next? John consults psychiatrist Dr. Beckwith, who explains the inner workings of Merrill’s disturbed mind and mentions a creepy new development: one of his patients, Caleb, is Merrill’s pen pal. Caleb is the son of the lighthouse keeper—and an isolated lighthouse, Kate thinks, is an ideal place to hide someone, alive or dead. A gothic denouement on a stormy night leads up a twisting staircase into a secret dungeon.
Formulaic but an effective blend of sentiment and suspense, somewhat less contrived than Rice’s last (Summer Light, 2001).