Author: Patricia MacDonald
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: July 29, 2008
Publisher: Pocket Books
When Tess DeGraff was nine years old and on a camping trip in New Hampshire with her family, a stranger kidnapped and killed her sister Phoebe. Thanks to Tess's eyewitness testimony, a man named Lazarus Abbott was arrested and convicted for the heinous crime. But twenty years later, a test reveals that Abbott's DNA does not match that of Phoebe's murderer. Driven by her fear that she may have sent an innocent man to his death, Tess and her adopted son, Erny, return to the New Hampshire town in which it all happened years ago.
Stone Hill, New Hampshire, is still an idyllic New England town. Tess's courageous mother, Dawn, who suffered the violent loss of her daughter and the early death of her heartbroken husband, now runs the charming Stone Hill Inn. Tess's older brother, Jake, lives nearby with his wife, a local girl he fell in love with during the trial of his sister's killer. While Tess's family stands by her account of the crime, nerves are frayed throughout Stone Hill, and others in town accuse her of lying and view her as a murderer.
In a race against time to untangle the truth about her sister's murder, Tess encounters an anti-death penalty lawyer, Ben Webster, who infuriates her but who also might open her eyes and her heart; a biased police chief related to the Abbotts; and an unknown killer who has Tess and Erny in his sights.
Twenty years ago, Tess DeGraff's older sister, Phoebe, was kidnapped from her tent, raped and brutally murdered. The only witness, Tess, recognized the man who snatched her sister, and Lazarus Abbott was sentenced to death.
Now, the DNA tests of the samples found on Phoebe's body reveal it wasn't Lazarus who murdered her and Tess is faced with the shocking realization she'd sent an innocent man to die...
Yes, judging from the back-cover blurb Patricia MacDonald should be a wonderful author, but trust me, the heiress-apparent to Mary Higgins Clark she is not.
Because the blurb is one thing and the book another. While the initial premise offers so may different angles to the story, the author chooses the most slow-moving plot of them all.
The so-called plot twists are botched up and laughable at best, the perp is evident from the first time we meet him and the main character, the one females are supposed to identify with and feel compassion for comes off too one-dimensional to make us even bother to care what happens to her.
Tess seems to be stuck at the emotional level of when her sister was kidnapped - the emotional level of a nine-year-old. She's judgmental, stubborn, prone to tantrums, draws (wrong) conclusions on a drop of a dime and never thinks before speaking. Which makes her ten-year-old adopted son the more mature of the two.
The male "lead" is a bit too of a second character to be noticed, although I suspect the author chose him in a feeble attempt at creating a romantic-subplot, that unfortunately fell through. I though the tidbit about his dead wife was completely unnecessary and just another plot-stopper more.
There are two things that made me absolutely cringe, though. One was the author's shameless exploitation of the small-town stereotypes.
But the worst one was the fact every single character with a "speaking role" at least once in the story appeared hysterical - I absolutely abhorred the ruthless and REPETITIVE abuse of the word "cry" (as in " to speak so as to be heard at a distance").
If you're looking for a thriller fix, search elsewhere. If you're only looking for something to help you sleep (a substitute for a sleeping pill), this is the stuff for you.