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Buy *Blame* by Jeff Abbottonline

Jeff Abbott
Grand Central Publishing
384 pages
July 2017
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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ďI know what really happened. I know what you donít remember.Ē This is the anonymous threat that follows Jane Norton two years after a terrible car crash that left her without memory and her companion David Hall in the cold ground, a secret buried with him. Although she has recovered from the crash, Janeís memory has stopped at 14, everything in between erased. Bits of the past flash through her brain, but nothing significant remains. At first Jane receives the townís sympathy, but after a note is discovered in the wreckage, Jane becomes a pariah, without friends and hated by Davidís mother, Perri Hall. Perriís hatred festers with each day her son lies in the earth.

Only 17, Jane Norton is an unusual protagonist, trapped in a nightmare without the maturity to make appropriate decisions. Distrustful of her mother, Laura, Jane seeks shelter in the dorm room David shared with his best friend, Adam. She keeps a low profile in town, slipping in and out a window and monitoring classes at the college David will never again attend. Sensitive to the barbs of Davidís friends, she is even more upset by the anonymous message on social media. Perri finds the same message scrawled across Davidís tombstone when she visits his grave.

Avoiding all but a few people, like Davidís roommate Adam, Janeís life is without direction or context, surrounded by people who mourn David and despise her. Hoping for respite if she visits Davidís grave, Jane is confronted instead by his raging mother. Perri simply cannot bear the sight of the girl. The past is shattered, happy memories destroyed for two families living side by side, though Brent Norton died the year before the accident. The families were good friends, both raising children, none anticipating the brutal blow ahead. Now Perri is about to divorce Davidís father, Cal, and Jane has lost even the memory of her fatherís death.

What seems a tragic loss mired in the overwhelming grief over a dead boy becomes a well-crafted mystery, scenes of grief and its aftermath revealing a maze of complications, beginning with the anonymous threat on social media. While Jane struggles to find her way without her estranged motherís help and Perri Hall is consumed with hatred, other characters indicate a deeper problem. Some of those involved with the accident even peripherally experience random attacks, like the burning of the home of the responding paramedic at the scene of the crash, intimate photographs posted on social media for a wife to discover, a private investigator suddenly closing his office and leaving town, or the enigmatic Liv Danger who no one seems to know. The secret David carried to his grave bears poisonous fruit, triggering suspicions and threat.

Odd behaviors fall into place, a maze of secrets unmasked, exposing more than the loss of a boy or the erasing of a girlís memory. While Abbott eschews deep character development for a tightly-plotted mystery, Blame is a fine beach read with a lot of surprises and a diverse cast of characters, albeit few heroes. While Jane Norton grapples with her dismal future, there are other deceptions afoot, the human faults that lead to betrayal and greed, but most of all the truth waiting in the wings.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2017

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