INNOCENCE by Karen Novak


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A woman teetering on the edge of sanity has to investigate a crime involving her own daughter.

In Novak’s ironically titled third novel (after Ordinary Monsters, 2002), p.i. Leslie Stone walks a fine line between using her own traumatic experiences to help her on a case and allowing her memories to swallow her whole. When Leslie was 13, her small town was ripped apart when 11 young girls (later named “Nightingales”) were abducted from their houses, raped, then set free. Years later, Leslie became a cop, but she was sent to an asylum after ending an interrogation session with a suspected child murderer by shooting him dead. Now specializing in missing children—and separated from her husband—she gets hired by her 13-year-old daughter Molly to locate Lydia, her missing friend. The police are already looking into the incident that apparently caused Lydia to vanish: a recent party at Lydia’s house that got out of hand to the point where five boys in Molly’s class are suspected of sexually assaulting Lydia. As Molly desperately wants to prove that the boys did nothing wrong—she claims that Lydia was drunk and forced the boys to do what they did—she needs Leslie to find her in order that the truth can be told. The entire matter threatens to overwhelm Leslie, who is seeing ghostly figures of the Nightingales everywhere and has terrifying encounters with a ghostly presence, just possibly a symptom of her unraveling sanity. Novak spends too much time flipping back and forth to different points of view when the most compelling voice by far is that of Leslie: tired and resigned to her fate, fragile yet possessed of an almost otherworldly presence.

A gripping story of gothic horrors told in the clear light of a far-from-innocent small town.

Pub Date: June 12th, 2003
ISBN: 1-58234-356-X
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2003


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