In King’s debut thriller, a well-known expert on angels returns to his hometown, where he investigates a series of suspicious deaths.
Rod Strickland was an atheist until he witnessed a woman, whom he believed to be an angel, save some children from being hit by an out-of-control truck—and then disappear. His resultant study of angels led to many speaking engagements on the subject, and his latest lecture is in Rachael’s Point, Pennsylvania, where he grew up. He left the small town more than two decades ago after he was arrested in connection with the prom-night disappearance of high school peer Darlene Poulardi and then forced by a judge to join the military. In Rachael’s Point, two people that Rod knew—Alice Parker, his surrogate mom after his parents’ deaths; and his prom date, Wanda Hall—have died since he’s been gone. Not long after he arrives, he spots and later meets the aforementioned angelic woman: the enigmatic Amy. Then a cemetery caretaker cryptically warns Rod to leave town, referencing some kind of pact made every eight years. Soon more people die, apparently from natural causes, but Rod notices signs that indicate there’s something more sinister—and otherworldly—at play. With prayer (and Amy) as his protection, he tries to stop a murderer who may also be targeting him. King loads his tale with suspicious characters, including Rod’s childhood pals Ronnie Parker, Don Hart, and Donald “Dobie” O’Connor Jr. Although it doesn’t take long to identify the killer, the extent of other people’s involvement in the deaths isn’t immediately revealed, nor are the specifics of the fateful prom night. The story has a clear Christian theme (with acceptance of Jesus as one’s savior portrayed as an ideal), and it maintains a steady pace as it builds up to an inevitable confrontation. However, because time is an important factor in the plot, chronological inconsistencies stand out, as when the date of Wanda’s death and the anniversary date of Darlene’s disappearance change.
A thoroughly engaging, sometimes-mystical mystery.