Clark’s latest damsel-in-distress is a former child witness set against her teenage sister’s convicted killer when he comes up for parole 23 years later.
“Ellie is such a good kid. She’s not a snitch,” Andrea Cavanaugh told her friends when she brought her seven-year-old sister to the garage on the Westerfield estate they used as a hideout. The good kid’s failure to tell her parents about the hideout when Andrea vanished on the way home from a friend’s may have meant the difference between finding her alive or dead. Years later, the girls’ mother has died of alcoholism, the father, who adored Andrea but ignored Ellie, has retreated into a second marriage, and Ellie has turned into an investigative reporter who wants nothing to do with him. But the news that Rob Westerfield, the spoiled rich kid her tearful testimony helped convict, is favored for parole brings her back from Atlanta to Westchester, where she attacks his family and their team of legal eagles with everything she’s got, from a placard she carries at the Ossining train station offering her phone number to recently released prisoners with anything damaging to say about Rob to a Web site on which she posts each new discovery in her case against him. Even after 23 years, there are plenty of discoveries—the reasons Rob was dismissed from an exclusive prep school, the rumors that Andrea wasn’t his first victim, the family’s determined attempt to blame the crime on Andrea’s special-needs classmate Paulie Stroebel—and each of them brings Ellie closer to long-anticipated danger.
Less mystery, more raw pain, and a tough-cookie heroine who tells her own story make this a real departure for Clark (On the Street Where You Live, 2001, etc.), and one that carries more conviction than her usual glossy fantasies.