A third appearance for Nicole Graves, now a rookie investigator for an LA firm, revolves around a virginal student’s accusation that she’s been raped by her Christian college’s star athlete.
Though she didn’t say anything for two months after she had sex with quarterback Doshan Williams, Mary Ellen Barnes is talking plenty now. Fortified and financed by Women Against Rape, she now says Doshan forced her, and she wants to tell her story in a Santa Monica courtroom. Until she doesn’t, maybe because Nicole’s provided limited protection from the paparazzi who stalk Mary Ellen, maybe because she doesn’t want to be cross-examined about such intimate details by George Goodman, Doshan’s attorney, maybe because, as she tearfully tells Nicole one night, she’s lying through her teeth, turning a consensual encounter into an accusation of rape at the behest of an anonymous blackmailer who’s threatened to ruin her life, complete with a steamy online video, if she doesn’t. Which story Mary Ellen has told is the truth? Before Nicole can investigate, her charge runs off and is soon found murdered when the tide under Santa Monica Pier reveals her inadequately buried body. End of story—or it would be if Doshan weren’t promptly arrested for Mary Ellen’s murder, leading Nicole, who’s repeatedly promised her fiance, architect Josh Mulhern, that her involvement with this unsavory case will end, to probe more and more deeply into the facts, leaving Josh outraged and fans of the series (The Bequest, 2017, etc.) utterly unsurprised. Now that the author has sprung her best surprises, her moves become less fast-paced, more conventional, and less compelling, and the mystery isn’t so much wound up as allowed to run down.
Though Boyarsky adds nothing to currently raging debates about sexual assault, readers whose appetites for he-said, she-said haven’t been sated by the spate of recent #MeToo headlines are invited to prolong their engagement just a little bit longer.