Buckley is a force to be reckoned with, an established writer, but she is new to me; I
wasn’t done with this grab-you-by-the-hair thriller when I lurched over to my
desktop to order two more of her novels from Seattle Bibliocommons, a thing I
rarely do. Big thanks go to Net Galley and Random House Ballantine for the
review copy. You can get this book March 12, 2019, and you should.
Sara Lennox is starting life new under the witness
protection program. She has a new name and a dull new life, working as a
cleaner—seriously, her a house cleaner?—and living in a damp, dull one-bedroom
at the Paradise Apartments on North Carolina’s outer banks. It’s sweltering
here. She asked to be placed on the Pacific Ocean, but no, she’s stuck here. Welcome
To top it all off, her handlers tell her not to go anywhere
for a while; don’t take risks. It’s like telling a fish not to swim for a few
Meanwhile, the family next door is in crisis, but then for
them, that’s not new. Whit and Diane Nelson have a stormy relationship; they
know how to yank each other’s chains, and they do it constantly. Diane is
gorgeous, a stunning woman that’s accustomed to owning every room she enters.
She’s also completely irresponsible, devoid of even the most basic maternal
instincts, and this came to a head when she snapped their little boy into his
car seat, then went to work without dropping him off first. She forgot he was
But it’s not okay. In the end, little Boon did come out of
that coma—but psychologically he’s a mess, and once he is home, Diane is no
better a mother than she was before. Add to this the ensuing visits from Robin
the social worker and the intrusion of the state into their lives.
Why can’t that woman just mind her own business?
Whit loves his kids and knows he should leave Diane, but he can’t. They are the codependents from hell. So as twelve-year-old Cassie develops, she is burdened with many of the tasks that Diane ought to be doing; she’s the one Boon comes to when their parents’ raging battles scare him. Cassie has a right to be a preteen, but she can’t have a normal adolescence because Diane is doing that despite her age. It isn’t fair. What’s more? It’s making this girl mean.
Sara meets Cassie when Cassie breaks into her apartment. It
sat empty for a long time, and Cassie had become accustomed to thinking of it
as her own space. Leap across the balcony railing onto the one adjoining, and
there you are. Cassie is a ball of rage, furious at her mother’s abdication and
her father’s inability to set boundaries. Angry kids get into trouble. Lots of
And then Diane disappears. She’s done that before, taken off
in a huff with no warning, abandoning her children and then reappearing after
days, a weekend, a week or more. But this time is different. Her car and her
purse are still here, for instance. And as the story climbs toward its
crescendo, we get the sense that something sinister has occurred. Oh, Whit.
What did you do?
Despite her disinclination to be involved with this family,
Sara is pulled into the lives of the children. When a record-setting storm hurls
its fury down upon the Outer Banks and the Paradise Apartments and evacuation
is the order of the day, Sara sees Boon, then Cassie as she leaps into her car
to peel out of there. His father’s car is gone. Though it’s the last thing she
wants to do, Sara gets back out and lets Cassie and Boon scramble into her car.
They’re off, and nobody knows who these children left with.
Buckley is absolutely unerring in her development of Sara
and all of the members of the Nelson family. When an inconsistency appears,
later in the story we see why the author put it there in order to move the
story forward. Psychological fiction can be written without deeply layered
characters, but it’s a lot better with characters like these, so achingly real.
So in the end, which character is the liar’s child? Every
single one of them.
Those that love a true thriller, one that makes your pulse
race and your breath stop from time to time should buy this book and read it.
Buckley is a master storyteller of the first order, and you won’t want to miss