The American debut of a novel first published in Australia in 1996 focuses obsessively on Larapinta, a quiet little town whose natives are properly shocked when, only a year after Bernice Strang was stabbed to death, another untimely death rocks the community. The victim this time is spiteful little Carol Zamia, an unlovable 14-year-old girl who fell into Larapinta Creek and drowned. But did she fall or was she pushed--by the fair-haired woman in white that death-camp survivor Lisa Buchanan saw running from the scene? Suspicion fastens on fair-haired Gabriel Endicott, who admits she got off her bus home early on a whim and passed within a few yards of Carrie Zamia's gasps, but stoutly maintains that she's not the running woman, even though Carrie's parents gently (and successfully) press her for hush money, and her cousin Phil Sturt--her only friend since her husband of one month died--obviously doesn't believe her. As Gabriel methodically explores every possible alternative explanation of the evidence, Carlon (The Whispering Wall, 1996, etc.) details her rising panic in the face of an everyday nightmare in which everything unceasingly, suffocatingly happens to her without her being able to take any action. The climax is sheer melodrama, the final revelation nearly as wayward as Carrie Zamia, but Carlon's management of the tension along the way is masterly. The main source of anxiety, though: How long will American readers have to wait for more of this gifted Australian's thrillers?