A young coed from a prestigious Vermont college goes missing, and the local police suspect her boyfriend is guilty of foul play in Ames’ (All about the Greater Good, 2016) chilling novel.
Eighteen-year-old Shannon Dawson disappeared after attending an off-campus party celebrating the end of the school year’s first semester. Her 20-year-old boyfriend, Keenan Brody, was also seen at the party, but nobody recalls them leaving together. Police officer Dustin Shores is “stuck” with trying to track down someone he sees as “some prima donna college student.” But after he has a phone conversation with Keenan, Dustin becomes convinced that the freshman hockey star is hiding something. All of Shannon’s friends have returned home for winter break and are scattered around the country, so Dustin conducts his first round of interviews by phone. By the time he’s able to meet with them personally in January, they’ve all been communicating with one another via texts and social media. Like the old children’s game of telephone, they begin to “remember” and report things that may or may not have happened. Ames moves the third-person narrative back and forth between the present investigation, which eventually leads to Keenan’s trial, and several months earlier, from when Shannon and Keenan first met to the fateful day of her disappearance. The author portrays Dustin as a decent cop who unconsciously transcribes witness statements with just a whiff of bias; Shannon is depicted as a normal coed, gradually testing her wings, and Keenan as a young guy ensnared in events spinning out of control. The book focuses on the frightening consequences of law enforcement officials’ tunnel vision and the pernicious influence of social media and rumor. Ames spent 12 years working in Vermont’s criminal justice system, including four as a part-time prosecutor, so she understands how the system works. In this compelling work of fiction, she lays out the steps by which even good people may be swayed by fear, subtle innuendo, and pressure to hold someone responsible for a tragedy.
A tense, cautionary page-turner from start to finish, with well-defined protagonists and some riveting scenes.