Revenge rears its ugly head in this thriller, complicating a marriage that begins with a daughter lamenting the loss of her mother. On the surface, Dee Aldrich and her husband, Patrick, are happy together, but lying beneath their carefully upholstered lives is a murkiness that seems to be derailing Dee at every turn. Apart from her mother, Annette, Annette’s colleague Special Agent Brian Menary, and Dee’s brother, Simon, there seems to be no one else in Dee’s life
who can shield her from Patrick, a man Dee once chose not for “what he represented but for what he was.”
From the outset the stage is set. Dee tells us that Patrick has been disappointed in his expectations of her. He’s recently taken up “a dark and distant perch” and has adopted an entirely new view of their lives together. Patrick clearly resents that Dee has failed the unwritten clause in their agreement “to be interesting and to make babies.” However certain Dee feels that her marriage is all but over, she must also do battle with her memories of Annette and Annette’s secret world. Dee has long been both fascinated and mortified by the stories of her mother’s escapades. She’s simultaneously pulled and repelled by imagining Annette doing crazy things that were nothing like what she did every day at home.
Far from Annette’s daring stunts in exotic backwaters, Dee aches for every trace of her: “Somehow I thought needed to figure out my mother in order to figure out myself.” In the book’s early sections, Mason paints a portrait of an obsessively-devoted Annette who has invested considerable time and energy into keeping up her suburban image, shamelessly loving her children at every opportunity.
The thought of Annette's presence only adds fuel to a marriage that is becoming increasingly bitter with every passing week.
The novel switches back and forth in time, going from Dee’s thirteen-year-old recollections of Annette to years later when Dee must cope with her mother’s terminal illness at the same time as Patrick has started to gravitate between repulsion and attraction. Dee’s paranoia
ramps up as she tries to unlock the mysteries behind the strange things that have been happening: Patrick’s connections to the company Carlisle Inc. that, among other things, builds aluminum storage and warehouse facilities, and to a blue sedan that suddenly appears in Dee’s driveway in which she spies Patrick talking to the bald-headed driver.
Trusting that she has developed the skills from her mother to keep her safe under any circumstances, Dee enlists Simon to help her on a quest to find out what is really motivating Patrick: “Something is not right and hasn’t been for a some time... I feel the leading edge of the storm in some inarticulate place in my gut.” While Simon suspects that Patrick is up to no good, other events begin to disintegrate the carefully calibrated and already fragile marriage that Dee once thought was so strong. For years, Dee has been turning a blind eye to clues that were all around her regarding Patrick’s overwhelming desire to have children.
Although I guessed pretty early on where this novel was heading, for the most part, I enjoyed Mason’s no-nonsense character-driven narrative as it ricochets (sometimes in unsmooth tones) along to a pretty clichéd, violent finale of desperation where Dee’s messy moral quandary conflicts with Patrick’s choices. Mason certainly has fun as she juxtaposes these chapters with other sections in which Dee is convinced she’s being stalked by special agents from her mother’s past.
There’s texture to Mason’s writing, and while all of her protagonists bristle with originality and feistiness, often the prose is too dense and convoluted for what is essentially just a crime story. Although this novel wasn’t enough for me to commit to any further investment in Mason’s works, I liked how she developed a good tale and a solid plot
despite distracting me with her overly clever phrases.