Pregnant Iraq War vet Harper Jennings (Behind the Walls, 2012, etc.) faces her most perilous adventure: an extended Christmas visit from her mother.
Hank Jennings, more or less recovered from his fall from the family roof (Summer Session, 2011), is off on a geological survey in South Texas. Concerned about his wife back in Ithaca, he’s arranged for her mother, Vivian, and her current boyfriend, Lou, to stay with her. It’s not a happy choice. Vivian’s alcoholism, narcissism and persistent attraction to losers have kept her at a distance from Harper, who bickers with her over everything, and Lou, who actually seems to be more on the ball than most of his predecessors, turns out to be hiding a dangerous secret. The biggest problem this Christmas, however, is the next-door neighbors. The fraternity house, which is supposed to be vacant for the holidays, is actually tenanted by Evan Lourd and his buddy Sty, who’ve stayed over without permission so that they can pick up other young men and murder them, taking their time over each victim in order to study his reactions and perfect their technique. As in the case of Leopold and Loeb, things don’t go as smoothly for Evan and Sty as they expect, and the complications increasingly involve Harper as witness, as potential victim and as avenger.
Jones works conscientiously to cross-pollinate the distant but lethal threats posed by Lou’s secret with the clear and present danger represented by the boys next door If you can swallow the coincidences behind the setup and the physically indomitable heroine, this nonstop tale pays off in spades.