What a sizzling and scintillating debut!
Chloe Davis has been trying to escape her demons since the tender age of 12. See, this is the year that six young women went missing…and one man was deemed guilty for their disappearances. The one man a girl should ALWAYS be able to depend on…Chloe’s own father. From the minute he is put behind bars, life isn’t the same for Chloe and brother Cooper, who cannot escape the ominous cloud of mystery that hovers over them in their tiny Louisiana town. The two struggle to move towards a new normal and Chloe’s mother never quite recovers, carrying a unique burden all her own.
Twenty years have passed and Chloe is deeply embedded in her ‘new’ life. Swoony and safe Daniel has come into her world, and the two are due to be married any day. Chloe is a psychologist now, putting her struggles aside to help others, and one day a teen girl comes to her practice who reminds Chloe of her own teenage self. Is it fate that the two should meet? Flickers of her past quickly ignite into a flame she can’t ignore when the very same girl she counseled turns up missing…just like so many years before. These echoes become a roar that even Chloe’s pills can’t drown out, and when the killer’s actions mirror her father a little TOO closely and a journalist comes a-calling, Chloe starts to question how her father’s reach could extend through prison bars and out into the real world…and exactly how well does she know Daniel? Why are so many patches of her own memory hazy? And could she be so much CLOSER to the crimes than she ever imagined?
My expectations were pretty high coming into this read, but the premise hooked me and I got easily caught in the web of Chloe’s thoughts, which at times was a pretty tangled jumble. Willingham tied past and present together in a clever fashion, straying from the “Now” and “Then” format so many thriller writers lean on and instead having Chloe’s flashbacks or memories appear mid-paragraph, leaving the reader even more baffled as to fact vs. fiction and of course, never knowing whether or not to trust Chloe as a narrator. Add in the requisite pill-popping and muddled thinking, and Chloe’s tale wound every which way, leaving me scratching my head at times and FRANTICALLY flipping pages. This is the first book in a while that I’ve been compelled to pick up (and the first I’ve finished in 3 days in a while as well!) so that’s the hallmark of addictive, keeps-you-guessing writing. I was so sure this would be a 5 star read for me and it nearly was…
UNTIL I realized I had guessed the ending…from quite early on, surprisingly (most of all to me!)
This is not to say that Willingham doesn’t hide the truth fairly well, because I think she did a fantastic job, and although my hunch was correct, that didn’t stop me from taking a journey down every open ended path she presented and questioning my instincts over and over. Do some plot elements fall a little too neatly into place? Sure. But I didn’t mind that aspect too much, and I was able to suspend my disbelief without feeling too disappointed.
This book is a little bit serial killer exposition, a little bit unreliable narrator psychological thriller, and a whole LOT of exciting and thrilling writing sure to put Stacy Willingham on the map in the genre. I am already excited for her next book and would wholeheartedly recommend this read to thriller buffs new and old (although newbies might be a bit more shocked by the ending.)
If from a tiny spark may burst a mighty flame…then Willingham is poised to set the genre ABLAZE! 🔥
4 stars, rounded down from 4.5
Many thanks to NetGalley, Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press, and Stacy Willingham for an ARC of this book!
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