Content warnings: child abuse, child death, trauma
Back in the 90s, a serial killer known as the Father kidnapped and murdered children, always siblings. Only one survived: Jillian, who became Erin, and she just wanted to forget the whole thing. But Harriett, whose cousins were among the Father’s victims, still needed to untangle the mystery that broke her family so many years ago. Together, the two start to pull at the threads that never made sense, bring back Erin’s memories of what happened the fateful night she survived, and learn who has returned to take up the mantle of the Father.
Harriett channels her obsession through the book she writes about the victims. Rather than focus on the serial killer and the pain he caused, she chooses to uplift the stories and memories of the children whom he murdered. Through her perspective, Dorricott presents commentary on our culture’s macabre obsession with true crime. More often than not, true crime junkies focus on the pain, horror and criminal rather than the victims or survivors.
Dorricott creates thrilling suspense as she drops clues about who the Father is and how Erin survived. There are enough clues to lead the reader in the right direction and figure out at least part of the mystery. But there’s enough doubt to leave you wondering what actually happened until the very end.
It’s interesting to see how Erin starts out hiding within her new identity, choosing to distance herself from “little Jilly” who survived. As the story unfolds and she starts to remember the trauma, she embraces her past as Jillian and uses that to propel her forward into becoming a new Erin.
Harriett and Erin grow closer, creating a trauma bond that starts to turn into a sort of romantic relationship. I say sort of romantic because as events unfold, Harriett drops details that indicate she is on the ace/aro spectrum. She talks about how she had “never thought of being with anybody, never mind a girl like Erin.” However, something about the relationship never felt organic, so it fell flat. It almost felt like they should have grown a close friendship rather than a romance.
Overall, this is a strong thriller, but the romantic subplot let it down.