A neighborly social call turns nightmare in the Florida panhandle.
After a painful divorce, Liana Clymer hopes that dyeing her hair red and moving to a fuchsia-painted cottage in Maypop, Fla., will give her a new start. Perky colors can’t save her, however, when she stops by the house across the street to introduce herself and sees an ad about a missing boy flashing on the neighbor’s TV screen. The boy, Justin, is right across the room from Liana, and his captor, Steven Stoat, becomes Liana’s as well. Across the state line in Alabama, Justin’s parents, Chad and Amy, have been driven apart by the strain of their son’s disappearance until Chad’s father, who abandoned him years before, comes back into his life and offers the couple hope. Meanwhile, Liana’s two grown sons, feeling guilty about not keeping in better touch with their mother, come down for a visit and find in her pink shack a gruesome clue that life in the Sunshine State hasn’t been altogether kind to Liana. In fact, she’s caught up in a cat-and-mouse game that you almost want the cat to win, just so the excruciating series of near misses and not-quite-successful escapes will finally end.
Springer (Dark Lie, 2012, etc.) has a flair for setting and characterization but not for integrating different plotlines and viewpoints. The result is a muddle of mawkishness, arch humor and gross details that drags on at least 50 pages too long.