A woman who grew up in foster care searches for her birth mother and discovers a history brimming with dark, grisly secrets in Morelli’s debut thriller.
Newlyweds Gregg and Kate Lawson give up their Manhattan apartment for a Marlboro, New Jersey, suburban home. Gregg, an architectural engineer, renovates the house, formerly the residential space for the head psychiatrist of a neighboring, now-defunct psychiatric hospital. Gregg’s often away for projects, and Kate’s understandably nervous being alone, especially with the strange, sometimes moving light each evening at the deserted hospital. She takes solace in the company of her best friend, Annie Collins, and stray dog-turned-companion Sam. But it’s her pregnancy that leads Kate, raised in foster homes, to seek out birth mother Samantha. Kate learns that she has grandparents and an extended family at a nearby ranch. They welcome her with open arms, but it’s not all good news: Samantha died some time ago, after years in an institution, the very same one close to Kate’s home. Samantha likewise suffered relentless abuse at the hospital and later tried to prove a sinister doctor was guilty of maltreatment and murder—only to become another one of his victims. Annie, meanwhile, at the Lawson residence, hears a voice warning her that Kate’s in danger. She hires private investigator Andrew Gannon, who delves into someone’s past and finds a string of deceptions. The novel may take a while before the suspense sets in, but Morelli wisely introduces a threat early. Kate is unnerved by the recurring light, and it only gets worse when she and Annie finally brave the hospital and see signs of a squatter. Kate’s an unassuming, relatable protagonist who likes having Annie and Sam around not just because she’s scared—she’s also lonely. Where Andrew’s investigation takes him isn’t much of a surprise, but the extent of the atrocities that he uncovers is gloriously abundant. Morelli well establishes the newly married couple but ensures that genre elements like disconcerting back stories take precedence. Annie and Andrew, at the same time, dabble in romance but only after Andrew elucidates his latest findings.
A predictable but thoroughly engrossing tale that may result in a few jittery readers.