Set in Georgia, Alice Bennett has taken on the role of caregiver to her recently-injured mother-in-law. Travelling from New York, she hopes she will find the space and time to deal with her marital pressures in this quiet picturesque town. Underneath the surface, however, simmering old feuds and resentments are finally boiling over, and Alice is caught in the cross-fire.
Alice Bennett: Freelance journalist, wife to Will, she has buried her own dark past in the hope of building a new family. Initially dominated by her husband, she grows throughout the novel, becoming stronger and believing more in herself.
Larry Lee Simms: Every town has a bad boy, and Larry Lee is it. He ticks all the boxes (done jail time for grievous bodily harm, dishonourable Navy discharge, petty larceny on the side, no steady job, etc.), yet we do get to see how he came to be how he is.
Beth Simms: Larry Lee’s sister, and undiluted trouble. Like Larry, she ticks all the bad girl boxes (sleeps around, drugs, prone to a bit of gbh herself, violent uncontrolled temper, etc.). She too has a dark secret.
Will Bennett: The town’s “Most Likely To” wunderkind, handsome, intelligent and privileged, he is an appalling husband to Alice, and as we later discover had left town for very good reasons.
Mae Bennett: Will’s mother, whose fall caused Alice to move into town. Written as a very classy lady, she has no real relationship with her two children (Margaret is her daughter).
New to the small town of Jasper, Georgia, Alice Bennett settles in to the task of caring for her mother in law Mae, who recently had a terrible fall, resulting in some serious injuries. Mae needs serious physio work, and her two children both have high-powered careers in cities far away from Jasper. Alice, as a freelance journalist with no kids, has the relative freedom to be Mae’s in-house care-giver.
Jasper is a small town (which really exists by the way – pop. 3,648), and quickly Alice becomes a topic of gossip. Interest level in her is raised when the locals discover she is married to local hotshot Will Bennett, who left Jasper years ago to become immensely successful in New York.
Alice soon discovers the riptide undertow of small-town life, becoming aware of simmering feuds between her in-laws and the local ne’er-do-wells the Simms. She also becomes aware that Mae’s fall was no accident, and local police are brought in. In such a small town, she begins to come across both Larry Lee and Beth Simms, and tensions increase. The local law enforcement keep a tight watch on Larry Lee, who is always one closed set of handcuffs away from another stretch in county jail.
Alice has her own reasons for coming to Georgia. She needs time and space to deal with her suffocating marriage to Will, who dominates and controls her in the early part of the book. Over time, she becomes more self-reliant, and it is interesting to see the change in that relationship.
Alice also takes on an investigative piece for her editor, to write about the horrific death of a young wife almost forty years previously. Despite being repeatedly warned about the dangers of waking sleeping dogs, she pushes as hard as she can to get to the truth.
As the days and weeks progress, Mae’s health improves, but the Bennetts, their neighbours and the town generally are subject to strange happenings, physical and verbal attacks, cryptic messages, as the town becomes less welcoming and more sinister.
What I Liked:
- It is a good psychological thriller, and the various threads kept interest for quite a while.
- Overall, the author evoked a strong sense of the South, the timelessness and relatively slow pace of life.
- Some of the character interplay was really well written.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Every main character has had terrible childhoods, and that became just a little wearying.
- I found it hard to empathise with any of the characters, other than Larry Lee, because I felt as a reader we never really get into their heads.
- There were threads that did not tie together, which is a little irritating, because part of the suspense is built up on the unexpected connections, reveals etc.
It was a pleasant read, perfect for a holiday or an rainy afternoon in front of the fire. While I enjoyed reading the book, and I think it didn’t quite live up to its promise, it will entertain.
Thank you to the Author Marketing Experts who provided a copy of the book, in return for an honest and objective review.