A therapist becomes the target of a carefully calculated setup in Kraus’ debut thriller.
Grace McDonald is finding midlife more pleasurable than she thought it would be. With both children now off at college, she and her husband Gil can luxuriate in “the absence of demands,” with more time to enjoy simple pleasures. Although Gil has lately seemed to have something on his mind, everything seems back on track by the time the couple has their joyous, successful 27th anniversary party. As a therapist, Grace often sees people who are unhappy in their marriages, including Mandy, who can’t take any more of her controlling husband Danny’s verbal and, lately, physical abuse. When Mandy finally pursues a divorce, Danny is enraged and blames Grace for brainwashing her: “He felt a righteous urge to punish Grace McDonald.” He develops an elaborate but plausible plan to stalk Grace and make her pay, and, at the same time, win Mandy back. The consequences of this plan will shake Grace’s faith in herself, her friends, her comfortable life, and even one of her children. In her debut novel, Kraus, a therapist and mediator, brings acute psychological observation to her storytelling, using subtle but telling details to round out her characters. For example, when Grace notices Mandy hurrying to make her appointment, she notes, “It’s the good girls who run, Grace thought. God forbid they keep anyone waiting.” Control-freak Danny likes an open-plan house, and “the idea of being able to see whatever was going on, of everyone within his reach.” Danny isn’t, however, a cartoonish villain; Kraus shows readers his self-justifications and fantasies of a perfect life while also nailing his narcissism and callousness. Throughout, she provides multilayered characters, with realistic contradictions and back stories. She also does a great job of explaining the plot’s many technical and forensic details. A sequel, All God’s Children (2014), follows.
A thoughtful, balanced novel, and a great mix of courtroom drama and psychological thrills.