Published May 23, 2017 by Random House
What Dennis Lehane does for Boston, Alan Drew does for Southern California in this gritty thriller about an idyllic community rocked by a serial killer—and a dark secret.
Detective Ben Wade has returned to his California hometown of Rancho Santa Elena for a quieter life. Suddenly the town, with its peaceful streets and excellent public schools, finds itself at the mercy of a serial killer who slips through windows and screen doors, shattering illusions of safety. As Ben and forensic specialist Natasha Betencourt struggle to stay one step ahead of the killer, Ben’s own world is rocked again by a teen’s suicide. Ben must decide how far he is willing to go, and how much he will risk, to rescue the town from a long-buried secret, as well as from a psychotic murderer.
With eerie, chilling, fine prose, Alan Drew brings us into the treacherous underbelly of a suburban California town in this brilliant novel of suspense about a man, and a community, confronted with the heart of human darkness.
So I literally didn’t make it past the first paragraph of the blurb before I was hitting the request button on netgalley….Dennis Lehane (love him), gritty thriller, serial killer and a dark secret…done, done, and done… I needed this book. Also, what the blurb doesn’t tell you is that it’s set in the 80’s which is another must read factor for me so I was all about this book needless to say. After the first forty pages or so I began to realize something, however…this really wasn’t a thriller in the sense that I expected it to be. After an interesting prologue which is wrote from the serial killer’s perspective the pace of the book slowed WAY down. We meet Ben, his daughter Emma, his ex-wife and Natasha and little by little, piece by piece, we get to know each of them as well as the small town of Santa Elena. The author did a wonderful job of fleshing out each of these characters along with creating a duel storyline with the serial killer. Along with realistic characters I also enjoyed the powerful sense of time and place Drew created with his use of strong, descriptive prose. I could easily visual this small Southern California town.
I have to say I really liked Alan Drew’s writing style although I would compare it more to John Hart than Dennis Lehane, in my opinion. Lehane creates a sense of tension or menace in his writing that I didn’t find here. What I did find was very likable characters in Ben and Natasha. I appreciated her confidence and intelligence and while I thought her use of technical medical terms for body parts was over the top, I did find her to be spunky and wondered if Ben would ever pick up on her attraction to him! Let’s talk about Ben because when I started this book I really thought it was going to be focused on the serial killer mystery but what it seemed to be focused on was Ben…his demons, secrets, and extreme desire to avoid something from his past. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Ben…alot…but I wanted and expected a faster paced thriller as well as the mystery to be a little more intricate. The narrative does include shifts to the serial killer’s perspective detailing his childhood which, while awful and heartbreaking, I found myself not really caring too much about that aspect of the story. It seemed to lack that edge of your seat something. I’m not sure if it was the slower pace, the focus on the killer’s past or something else but I wasn’t as invested in that part of the story and in the end it seemed pretty straightforward and underwhelming. What did work extremely well, however, was the “dark secrets” aspect which, although I did figure one out before the end, I found to be compelling and worked to keep the narrative flowing.
Overall, if you’re in the mood for an atmospheric, character driven mystery that slowly evolves I think you might really enjoy this one. Those looking for a fast paced thriller may be disappointed.
Many thanks to Random House via Netgalley for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review.