A bright, conflicted hero struggles to free himself from the past’s tightening bonds in this corkscrew of a thriller.
After their troubled young mother’s death in an accidental shooting, Jamie and Cate were adopted by loving, affluent parents in Danville, Calif., themselves still grieving the loss of their two biological children in a car accident. The kids respond differently to their comfortably sheltered existence. Jamie becomes a high-performing student and talented pianist, while Cate, still passionately loyal to the mother Jamie barely remembers, grows into a wild, reckless teen. Released two years after her incarceration for burning down a neighbor’s barn, killing horses and critically maiming a classmate, Cate’s heading for Danville, and Jamie’s terrified of what she’ll do next. Years of treatment with a sympathetic therapist haven’t helped him overcome his bouts of amnesia and, when severely stressed, the loss of sensation in his hands. With his first romance on the horizon, he’s stopped taking his meds, which have deadening side effects. Vivid characterization and Jamie’s sharply observed narration lend credibility to the proceedings and divert attention from a few holes in the logic. In the service of her plot, Kuehn takes liberties with current child welfare practices (some may take issue with the skewed portrait of older-child adoption), but her strong suit—building suspense—is bound to keep even skeptical readers turning pages.
Smart, gripping genre fiction. (Thriller. 14-18)