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by Emily Arsenault
William Morrow, July 2018
401 pages
$15.99 CAD
ISBN: 0062567365

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Campion, Connecticut is a peaceful place. That's why Henry Peacher, promoted to detective after taking heroic action during the town's one notable act of violence, a mass shooting at a nursing home, is surprised when he gets the call. A psychotherapist nearing retirement has been murdered. As Henry enters the crime scene he thinks to himself "well, I'm finally seeing a shrink," something his wife has encouraged him to do.

He doesn't know that Nadine Raines had just left the office and is on her way out of town, running away from the girl she had been years ago when, out of the blue, she brought an X-Acto knife to school and stabbed a teacher in the arm. After a hospital stay, she'd spent time in therapy with the murdered psychologist, who never really uncovered what was going through her head when she attacked the teacher. Nadine is now a nurse who works overseas and has made a rare visit home to see her mother and stepfather - and talk to her former therapist. Henry has his work cut out for him, trying to interpret a cryptic patient list so he can question everyone who has recently been in that office and figure out a motive. Nadine has work to do too, addressing the dead therapist directly as she spends a night at a bed and breakfast and then visits a forest where, as a young child, she spent time with her father, trying to understand what he meant to her before he died of an overdose.

Henry and Nadine take turns as narrators in short chapters that gradually reveal the motive for the murder. Each one holds different pieces that we assemble bit by bit as we get to know the now-grown teenager who once drew comics about a half-blind doll and a dinosaur and Henry, whose young twins take a morbid interest in fairy tales. (Why were Hansel and Gretel sent into the woods instead of the mean stepmother who nobody liked? If the witch was so hungry, why didn't she eat her house?)

There is a crime to investigate here, and the clues and red herrings are deftly placed, but the deepest mysteries are found in the well-developed characters: a woman trying to understand herself and a seemingly simple man who has quiet, still depths. Just like the suburban and bucolic town, there's a lot more going on than at first appears.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, August 2018

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