A quiet town’s dark past and a serial killer’s quest for his ideal victim create a perfect storm in Staub’s (The Perfect Stranger, 2014, etc.) frothy new thriller.
Once a local troublemaker, Rowan Mundy has returned to her upstate New York hometown of Mundy’s Landing—she’s related by marriage to the village’s founder—to settle down with her husband and three children. Now a teacher at the elementary school she once attended, Rowan lives a quiet life with her devoted husband, Jake, and her youngest son, Mick, who will soon join his brother and sister in college. Though Mundy’s Landing seems quaint—always a bad sign in a crime novel—its history is drenched in blood and the town has never quite recovered from the so-called Sleeping Beauty murders, an unsolved triple murder of three unidentified girls a century earlier. While Rowan goes about small-town life, a killer with a penchant for straight razors and redheaded women—guess what color hair Rowan has—is leaving a steady stream of corpses along the East Coast as it becomes clear that he’s working his way toward his ultimate target. When an anonymous package arrives at Rowan’s door, triggering memories of mistakes she’d like to forget and a secret she’s kept from Jake for 14 years, Rowan’s perfect life begins to slowly unravel, just as the killer zeroes in on Mundy’s Landing.
While the subject matter may seem gruesome, the violence is fairly muted and Staub mostly maintains the suspense throughout, despite a few too many coincidences.