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by J.T. Ellison
MIRA, September 2017
416 pages
ISBN: 0778330958

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ethan and Sutton Montclair are leading a marvelously upscale life in Franklin, Tennessee in their enormous and enormously renovated Victorian where both work daily writing the successfully published novels that bring them those lovely checks. From the beginning of their story, there are cracks in the façade that make us suspect that all is not as it appears, but when their infant son is discovered dead in his crib, even though the verdict is SIDS, they each blame the other and pull apart. We rapidly see hints and evidence of abuse, falsehoods, secrets, odd behavior, guilt, and accusations.

Then, one morning when Ethan comes down to the kitchen, Sutton is gone, leaving only a note of apology asking him not to look for her. Ethan dithers, decides to wait a bit and give Sutton some space (because her leaving is a wrench but not a surprise really), and promptly reverts to his best strategy, getting smashed. Talked into getting a good lawyer before calling the police by Sutton's best friend, Ivy Brookes, Ethan makes the calls knowing full well that he will be the immediate suspect in the case of foul play. The lawyer can't control Ethan's awful behavior any more than Ethan can, and Sutton's friends basically gang up on him with their certainty that he has done away with her. Sutton's mother is a piece of work who makes no sense whatsoever and leaves even more hints and trails to follow. A pair of police officers, the older and experienced Moreno and his partner (the newbie Graham who longs to become a detective), arrive on the doorstep and become fairly sympathetic when Ethan tells them about the baby's death, their overwhelming grief, and their subsequent difficulties with writing which has resulted in cancelled contracts for both of them.

It seems that Sutton has indeed left him of her own volition but the fact that she has closed out her social accounts and left behind her phone, laptop, and purse are unsettling. She would really not want to be found. However, the discovery that $50,000 is missing from their investment portfolio – taken slowly over a number of months – strengthens the first assessment.

Unfortunately, there is a trail of domestic calls to the police that originated from Sutton's phone and which she denied placing, and there is a stalker that Sutton insisted was after her that no one else can find evidence of. Gradually there is so much conflicting evidence that everyone, particularly the reader, cannot make fit together.

And then Sutton's body is found and everything goes to hell.

J. T. Ellison has taken a new turn with this novel, departing from her popular mystery series to delve into a domestic noir area that leans heavily on wonderfully drawn characters, nicely portrayed relationships, psychological terror, slick plotting, and not too much contrivance. Bewildered though I was, I was never tempted to put this delicious book down. In fact, I read it twice in about four days.


§ Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, August 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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