Have current events finally caught up with Walters’s unremittingly brutal imagination? The latest of her masterful psychological thrillers (Fox Evil, 2003, etc.) examines the effects of terrorism as it ranges from Baghdad to West Dorset.
“You’ll know not to cross me,” soldier-of-fortune John Harwood tells Reuters correspondent Connie Burns when he hears she’s accused him of raping and murdering the five Sierra Leone women three teenagers are being blamed for killing. Connie doesn’t expect to meet him again, but two years later, while she’s covering the Iraq war, she comes face to face with Keith MacKenzie, who’s obviously Harwood by another name. The polite insinuations about his past she makes to a spokesperson for MacKenzie’s security firm are met with equally polite stonewalling, and she decides it’s the better part of valor to retreat to London. But on the way to the airport, she’s kidnapped and held captive for three agonizing days before an unexpected release that amounts to a second hell. Because she has no serious visible injuries, she’s been let go far sooner than most victims of abduction, and because she refuses to say a word about her captivity, the authorities greet her story with undisguised suspicion. Cut off from everyone but her loving, helpless parents by her panic attacks and inability to come to terms with her violation, she retreats to Barton House, a crumbling rental in Winterbourne Valley. Instead of writing the contracted book about her ordeal, she plumbs the history linking her neighbor, fearsomely gruff farmer/artist Jess Derbyshire, to Lily Wright, the Alzheimer’s-stricken owner of the house Jess found collapsed by the side of Lily’s fishpond eight months ago. Though the story of the Wrights and the Derbyshires strangely echoes Connie’s own, the real satisfaction here is waiting for that story to conclude with the inevitable return of Keith MacKenzie.
Genteel and horrifying as ever, with a particularly unsparing examination of the rage of traumatized victims.