A string of murders points back to a crime committed years earlier by a desperate teenager, forcing his former elementary school teacher to wonder if they’re connected to his recent release from prison.
Philadelphia second-grade teacher Elle Harrison is not ready for the first day of school. Her fears—of the building, of the janitor, of everything—seem overblown until she discovers the mutilated corpse of the principal in her office. No stranger to murder (her husband, Charlie, was stabbed in their home two years ago in 2013’s The Trouble with Charlie), Elle finds herself immersed in it again. She’s warned by her best friend and fellow teacher, Becky, that local murderous wild child Ty Evans has just been released from prison at age 21, after serving seven years for killing his abusive father; Elle has his little brother, Seth, in her class. Ty is an obvious suspect in Principal Marshall’s murder, but that’s far from the most obvious aspect of the plot, which piles on genre clichés like it piles on bodies. Elle is prone to “pulling an Elle,” which means she takes narratively convenient breaks midconversation and lets her thoughts drift, making her appear both unreliable and increasingly annoying as a narrator. As she tries to sort out a potential case of child abuse—is Seth being hurt at home? Is the newly sprung Ty the abuser?—Elle also fends off the advances of her lecherous realtor in a bizarre subplot that seems out of place.
With a heroine who seems ill-equipped to do her job let alone solve a slew of murders and a thoroughly preposterous plot, this clunker won’t thrill suspense fans.