I was a big fan of this author’s Lincoln Perry series but it’s been a while so I was happy to get my hands on his latest stand alone. For me this was very much a book of 2 halves. I see you squinting at me so I’ll try to explain but first, the 411.

“Nineteen minutes before her brain and body parted ways, Tara Beckley’s concern was the cold.”

Got your attention? That’s the opening line & you may wonder if it might be a good idea not to get too attached to poor Tara. No worries. After a car crash, she’s still alive albeit trapped in her own body with locked in syndrome. Her passenger, a professor she was driving to a conference, didn’t fare as well.

Meanwhile a woman named Lisa Boone is wondering what happened to her latest client. She’s in the Detroit airport waiting for a professor who had one more lecture to give before she whisks him away. All she can do is ponder his last text: ASK THE GIRL.

As Tara lies in a coma, family gathers at her bedside to consider the options. It’s probably a good thing they don’t know she’s listening as they discuss when to turn off the machines & let her go. Luckily she has someone in her corner. Her sister Shannon has always had her back & refuses to believe Tara is already gone.

Then we meet Abby Kaplan, a claims investigator hired by Tara’s college to look into the accident. They sponsored the conference & want to nail down any potential legal liability stemming from the professor’s death. Fatal accidents are something Abby knows a bit about. She recently returned to Maine after surviving a crash that killed her boyfriend. It’s obvious Abby is still traumatized but she needs this job. So maybe she’ll have a couple of drinks before tackling the crime scene.

There’s a lot of history & more characters to introduce before the story can really take off. This is what I meant in the intro. The first half sets up various sub plots & establishes the cast but you soon realize Tara & Abby will be the main narrators. I enjoyed Tara’s side. Making one of your MC’s a person who never leaves her bed is an interesting choice. I fared less well with Abby. First, I have a thing about drinking & driving. That’s just a personal tic. But it was mostly the frequent references to the accident in California that sent her running back to Maine.

Her boyfriend was a well known actor so in addition to her personal grief, Abby had to deal with being excoriated in the press. It’s a horrific experience that would leave anyone reeling & we better understand her behaviour after the initial reveal. However, she (and the reader) delves into it over & over again including long passages of conversations she had with her boyfriend. Not only does it slow the pace & yank you out of the present, it doesn’t add anything to the story. We already know she’s suffering & I confess I found myself skimming these sections to get back to the current situation which was much more compelling.

Thankfully, this happens less often in the second half. The plot is intricate & things really get interesting when we spend time with a creepy young killer hell bent on making sure no one digs into the circumstances around Tara’s accident. It becomes a fast paced read with several nice twists that keep you turning the pages.

So with 3 stars for the first half & 4 for the second, I’ll split the difference.

emerge's rating:
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