What’s the worst that can happen to an already widowed suburban mom? Certainly not the death of her second husband, as veteran domestic-intriguer MacDonald (Secret Admirer, 1995, etc.) adroitly reveals.
Back in Ann Arbor five years ago, schoolteacher Keely Bennett’s son Dylan came home from school to find his migraine-prone father, Richard, fatally shot. Though the death seemed an obvious suicide, Richard’s lawyer friend, Mark Weaver, swiftly came to Michigan to take charge of the case, persuading the insurance company it was an accident they were liable for and then sweeping Keely off her feet and bringing her back home to a comfortable house in his boyhood town of St. Vincent’s Harbor, Maryland, where they soon had a daughter of their own Keely could stay home to take care of. It was the storybook ending to a troubled episode until Mark died just as suddenly as his friend, drowned in his own swimming pool in an attempt to save his baby girl. Already dazed by the shock, Keely is utterly unprepared for the sequel: the police suspicion that Dylan, now a troubled 14, killed the doting stepfather he’d never accepted—and may have had a hand in his own father’s death as well. MacDonald expertly projects the normal fears all mothers have about their wayward teenagers onto a nightmare scenario of suicide and homicide, ratcheting up the tension as the evidence against Dylan mounts. Though the solution to the mystery, which feels gratuitous, forced, and unconvincing, is a lot less expert, readers hooked by Keely’s all-too-believable sense of home-grown paranoia will be more than happy to see her rescued at any price.
Now that Joy Fielding seems to have left soccer-mom suspense behind her, MacDonald may well be the leading practitioner of the brand of domestic intrigue whose heroines can’t trust their own parents, husbands, or kids.