Only small pieces of the plot are revealed in this suspense thriller, characters introduced in short chapters that move the storyline toward a shocking ending. The actions of one demented sociopath disturb years of quietude in a town once touched by unimaginable violence. Now it is clear once more that quantities of blood will be spilled before the tale is told.
Accused of serial murder, Andrew Thomas has been in hiding for the last five years after bodies were found buried at his riverfront home in Davidson, North Carolina (the subject of Crouch’s previous novel, Desert Places). The stylized chapters effortlessly ratchet up the tension in a new series of brutal murders as an evil design is put in place to lure Andrew Thomas into an elaborate trap. The police have every reason to suspect the formerly successful crime writer is the perpetrator of the recent crimes near Thomas’s old residence.
Thomas has been hiding in a rustic cabin in Haines Junction, Yukon, secluded, guarding his privacy with the established patterns of a loner in a desolate part of the world. Recently, Andrew has been writing a new manuscript, one that makes the case for his innocence in the serial killings, claiming that he was framed. Even in his exile, Andrew hears of the shocking murders, so heinous that even his Yukon neighbors are discussing the details.
At this point, Thomas leaves the security of his hideout in an attempt to rescue Beth Lancing, the wife of Andrew’s deceased best friend and a neighbor of the slaughtered family, who has been kidnapped. Until she is confronted by the ruthless stranger, Beth believes that Andrew is responsible for the death of her husband. The man’s intention is to send a calling card to Andrew, the siren call of an old nemesis.
Everyone is searching for Luther Kite, the only name the police have linked to the recent spate of crimes, and this only as a starting point. Violet King is the detective sent from Davidson, N.C., the site of the murdered family and the abduction, charged with questioning Kite or his parents. With few clues, Luther’s name at least gives the police a place to start, their small village wracked by the implication of the murders, indicating the return of the infamous serial killer.
Taking inspiration from Anne Sexton’s “Locked Doors,” Crouch has created a chamber of horrors where death dwells in every corner. In his nightmarish plot, nothing is what it seems, the innocent collateral damage, as Crouch assembles his protagonists in subtle twists and turns, giving no inkling of who to trust or what horror lurks beneath a stranger’s façade.
Eerily seductive, creepy characters lend an atmosphere of implicit danger, the rapid-fire action leading to a bloody confrontation, all manner of mayhem unleashed by a depraved mind with a will to kill. No holds barred, this is terror served raw, the menace palpable, even after the last page is turned, a scorched-earth treatment of the criminal mind.