In Mealer’s debut thriller, a woman’s past relationship puts her in danger when dubious types target her to extract information they’re sure she has.
Nevada Taylor’s breakup with Andy Blanchard was almost inevitable. He’d kept a myriad of secrets from her and later cleaned out their joint checking account. But after someone murders Andy, whatever he was hiding from Nevada seems to be exactly what a mysterious group wants. She has no idea what they’re looking for, but that doesn’t stop the barrage of threatening phone calls at work and at home or her eventual abduction and subsequent torture. Two men enter Nevada’s life, Stone and Paul, but she doesn’t know whom she can trust, even if Andy’s posthumous message vouches for one of them. Mealer’s story thrives on withholding details from the reader. In fact, most of the conundrums—e.g., whom Stone and/or Paul are working with (or for) and why Andy felt the need to be so hush-hush about everything—aren’t divulged until the end. Much of the mystery retains an impressive amount of suspense. Some of the story, however, is simply too vague. For instance, the narrative doesn’t provide the name of the company where Nevada is employed or what her customer service job specifically entails, which might have helped further establish her as a well-rounded protagonist. Regardless, she’s undeniably sympathetic, and the story at times borders on depressing, because her efforts to convince the baddies that she knows nothing are so often futile. Nevada’s eventual confrontation with the villains makes for a decidedly more intense final act. The big reveal is largely effective because Mealer—fully aware that the much-desired item is a MacGuffin—makes certain the explanation is uncomplicated. By the time it’s over, readers may have an unanswered question or two about certain characters, but the story is, for the most part, resolved.
Before winding down, an ambiguous plot gives the story its nail-biting tension.