Thirty-seven days after his brother Billy is stabbed to death, Cal Chase, maddened by the lack of police progress on the case,
begins making his own inquiries about the woman Billy loved, the suspect who vanished the night of his murder. Since nobody
in Port Alma, Maine, knows where Dora March went, or very much about where she came from a year earlier in 1937, Cal is
thrown back on his own tormented memories. He recalls the way he and Billy had divided their parents” affections and vocations
since childhood, until Cal ended up in the D.A.’s office and Billy took over his father’s newspaper. And he lacerates himself over
his nagging suspicions of the mysterious Dora, which gnaw at him now in useless hindsight. Meantime, Cook, braiding his
evocation of a deceptively placid American past as usual with nightmarish glimpses of a darker, more distant past, throws out
increasingly ominous accounts of families slaughtered, young children tortured, and Dora’s uncanny sympathy with each case.
This time, however, the story is kept from the heights of Instruments of Night (1999)—one of whose central twists it borrows—by
an uncharacteristic lack of connection between Dora’s secrets and Billy’s fate, which seems in retrospect almost a casual
Even so, Harris keeps his tale rushing toward its climax with all the doomy energy of its opening image: a swift-moving
current pulling a helpless child toward rapids, a waterfall, and a watery grave.