With The Neighbor and Pray for the Girl, Joseph Souza proved himself a master of twisty and unpredictable psychological suspense. In this riveting new novel, a mother is unwittingly drawn into the dark underbelly of her picture-perfect Maine town . . .
Shepherd’s Bay has been home to generations of lobstermen and their families. Lately, affluent newcomers have been buying up waterfront property and mingling uneasily with the locals. Tensions are high, especially since Dakota James, a teenage boy from the wealthier side of town, disappeared weeks ago. But another disturbing incident soon follows.
When high school junior Katie Eaves and her friend, Willow Briggs, fail to come home after a night out, Katie’s mother, Isla, is frantic. Two agonizing days go by before Katie is found, bruised and bloodied, yet alive. Isla is grateful. But Willow, a wealthy newcomer from Los Angeles, is still missing. And Katie can’t remember anything about the night of their disappearance.
Isla tries to help her daughter sort through her hazy recollections, and to recall the truth of her tangled friendship with privileged, beautiful Willow. At the hair salon she owns, Isla hears dark whispers about wild parties, drug deals, and love triangles gone wrong. How much truth is in the gossip? Is Dakota’s disappearance linked to the others? And what other shocking secrets lie at the heart of Shepherd’s Bay—and of the family Isla is struggling to hold together?
Weak portrayals of the main characters mar this meandering thriller from Souza (Pray for the Girl). Isla Eaves calls the Shepherd's Bay, Maine, police after she's awakened early one morning by a noise in her house only to discover that it was just her Alzheimer's-afflicted father. When officer Karl Bjornson arrives, Isla notes her daughter Katie, a high school junior, isn't in her room, but despite another teen having been missing from town for more than three months neither Isla nor Karl is particularly concerned until the following day when Katie's best friend, Willow Briggs, is also reported missing. Katie turns up days later, beaten and with temporary memory loss. Karl investigates, but his technique is limited to questioning Katie and having "gut feelings." Katie meanwhile tries to remember the start of her friendship with Willow, but her internal monologues often don't sound like that of a teen. Various extraneous plot threads help keep readers guessing, but the true culprits act suspiciously from the very beginning. Souza has done better.