In Hoag’s (The 9th Girl, 2013, etc.) latest, talented young newscaster Dana Nolan is left to navigate a psychological maze after escaping a serial killer.
While recuperating at home in Shelby Mills, Indiana, Dana meets her former high school classmates John Villante and Tim Carver. Football hero Tim is ashamed of flunking out of West Point, and now he’s a sheriff’s deputy. After Iraq and Afghanistan tours, John’s home with PTSD, "angry and bitter and dark." Dana survived abduction by serial killer Doc Holiday, but she still suffers from the gruesome attack by "the man who ruined her life, destroyed her career, shattered her sense of self, damaged her brain and her face." What binds the trio is their friend Casey Grant, who's been missing five years, perhaps also a Holiday victim, even if "[t]he odds against that kind of coincidence had to be astronomical." Hoag’s first 100 pages are a gut-wrenching dissection of the aftereffects of traumatic brain injury: Dana is plagued by "[f]ear, panic, grief, and anger" and haunted by fractured memories and nightmares. "Before Dana had believed in the inherent good in people. After Dana knew firsthand their capacity for evil." Impulsive and paranoid, Dana obsesses over linking Casey’s disappearance to Holiday, with her misfiring brain convincing her that "finding the truth about what had happened to Casey [was] her chance of redemption." But then Hoag tosses suspects into the narrative faster than Dana can count: Roger Mercer, Dana’s self-absorbed state senator stepfather; Mack Villante, who left son John with "no memories of his father that didn’t include drunkenness and cruelty"; even Hardy, the hard-bitten, cancer-stricken detective who investigated Casey’s disappearance. Tense, tightly woven, with every minor character, from Dana’s fiercely protective aunt to Mercer’s pudgy campaign chief, ratcheting up the tension, Hoag’s narrative explodes with an unexpected but believable conclusion.
A top-notch psychological thriller.