A powerful, suspenseful debut novel about a young woman who’s obsession with a stranger’s murder has her venturing into the unknown...
In Memphis, where the heat clings heavy like a second skin, it has been a summer of murders. Olivia Dale's job as a novice crime reporter is at once surreal—stepping in and out of strangers' lives with her notebook—and all too real. As she looks down on the twisted body of a young woman who has been kidnapped and gruesomely killed, she wonders if she could have been that girl. As she chases the story, she discovers that Allison Avery—so all-American, so like Olivia in age and looks—was just like her, except wilder. Drawn deep into the shadows and secrets of Allison's life, Olivia becomes caught up in exploring her own wild side and finds herself seduced by a perilous world where her life may be in danger.
The summer Southern thriller has become an industry clich , and this novel outwardly cleaves to the form--a plucky Memphis crime reporter investigates a grisly murder, rubs shoulders with local lowlifes and even participates in a drunken showdown on Beale Street. But debut author Stewart crafts a novel more serious and sensitive than the average whodunit. Olivia Dale, a young, dedicated reporter who works the police beat despite the protests of her protective boyfriend, tackles the story of recently raped and murdered Allison Avery, who worked as a nursing tech in a medical clinic and dreamed of becoming a rock singer. As Olivia interviews Allison's family and friends, she begins to identify with her subject, who emerges as a bright, funny woman with a physical resemblance to Olivia. Captivated by the case, Olivia starts to imagine herself the murder victim. She carries on a dangerous flirtation with Allison's young brother, dances with Allison's obsessive ex-boyfriend and is tempted to experiment with the drugs that may have played a role in Allison's death. Olivia's fixation gives Stewart the opportunity to comment on the blurry line between reality and reporting, and on the frightening realization that crime can strike at random. Yet in defusing the mystery of Allison's death, and focusing instead on Olivia's inner life, Stewart neglects to provide a satisfying conclusion to the unsolved murder. As a result, even the evocation of Memphis's sweltering summer heat can't bring Stewart's tale to a rolling boil.