Two psyche-scarred women, bound by tragic pasts and family secrets, vow to find out whether a man’s death was a suicide or murder.
Ari Wilburn was 10 when a hit-and-run driver killed her 8-year-old sister, Carli. That tragedy estranged Ari from her parents, especially her mother, who blamed her for Carli’s death. She’s not alone: Ari blames herself as well and has memories of pushing her sister just before the accident. She is banished to a childhood of group homes, foster care, and juvenile detention. A suicide survivor, she starts a support group where she meets Tina Alvarez, who has an even more harrowing past and is reeling from the death of her father, Josef, which the police have determined is a suicide. Tina’s story awakens something in Ari, and she promises to help her discover whether Josef was actually murdered. “Not out of obligation,” Ari states. “But because my decayed muscle of a heart had survived my life, and for once I cared about something. Someone. Perhaps I was human after all.” The risk of spoilers prohibits a deeper plot synopsis. The tale unfolds in chapters told from alternating perspectives, including those of Rosalita, Josef’s mother, who quite correctly prophesized when her son was an infant that he was evil; Tina, who harbors unspeakable secrets; and a killer with a definite agenda (“I’m no sociopath…I’ve been watching, waiting patiently for my turn”) that may expand to include Tina and Ari. As Ari becomes embroiled in Tina’s situation, she begins to uncover a terrifying connection to her own family. She starts to question whether Carli’s death was an accident. Crane’s (The Scream of Silence, 2016, etc.) latest novel is a dark ride; so bleak that even Gillian Flynn might say, “Lighten up.” Crane wallows in the victims’ blood. It pools, oozes, sloshes, and seeps. Eerie foreshadowing (the Ari chapter headings count the days until her death) and twisted revelations keep the pages turning, but the author’s empathy for her “broken” characters adds humanity to the macabre proceedings. Crane has two other ongoing series to her credit. That this becomes an origin story that sets a character up to be a private eye in future installments doesn’t quite feel organic.
On its own, a gripping tale of revenge and redemption.