A mother with a troubled family past flees her ruined marriage to a peripatetic manager only to realize that you can’t go home again, especially if you’re sharing your home with a truly malignant ghost.
Christopher James has been dead for nine weeks, but that doesn’t stop him from phoning his sister Olivia and warning her: “I had to pay the piper....Don’t let him…after you.” Olivia knows instantly that the piper is the nameless malefactor who carried off her sister Emily 25 years ago. Does Chris’ call indicate that he fell victim to the same predator and that Olivia may be next? Now that she’s moved herself and her 8-year-old daughter, Teddy, from LA back to her family home in Knoxville, she certainly has put herself in the piper’s way. Teddy gets texts and hears menacing predictions from a voice she reluctantly identifies as that of Duncan Lee, aka Decan Lude, the Pied Piper of Hamelin. After Chris’ widow, Charlotte, begs Olivia to move out of a house she’s convinced is haunted, a blowup between the two women leaves Olivia feeling acutely isolated. It does no good to reach out for help, since anyone who tries to reassure her or stand between her and the piper ends up dead. When Teddy vanishes as suddenly and completely as Emily, Olivia is forced to decide what value she places on her child’s life and whether she’s willing to pay the piper to bring her back safely.
Hightower takes a break from her three series characters (Fortunes of the Dead, 2003, etc.) for a stand-alone nightmare that will keep you awake till the last page and maybe even afterward.