There was always an edge of noir about nights at summer camp, wasn't there? You were safe if you stayed in the cabin, but getting to the bathroom -- or being the last one to walk back from the lake -- what if the scary creature from last night's fireside chiller came after you?
In THE DROWING, J. P. Smith's seventh novel, that darkness goes around full circle, in a twist of persecution that steps back into the life of a former camp counselor. It's Alex Mason, whose determination to teach a little boy named Joey Proctor to swim got twisted, years ago, into something mean and frightening. The child disappeared, and Alex got on with his life afterward.
But others couldn't. The child's parents. The camp owners. The child, if he survived -- is that even possible? He must have drowned or been kidnapped, right?
Alex keeps trying to convince himself. But for sure, someone is coming after him and methodically destroying every aspect of his otherwise successful career and family. Even his wife can't buy that he's not responsible for this devastation:
She touched his hand. "Tell me the truth. Did you do this? No, don't look at me like that. Did you or didn't you? If you did, you must have had a good reason for it. Just help me try to understand, okay?"In a classic horror thriller (so much so that I kept looking for a quick cameo by Alfred Hitchcock), Alex loses control of everything he values. The twists are knife-sharp, the suspense excruciating. And the final twist -- well, whether you buy the last explanation or not (and I didn't quite), you will have taken a wicked rollercoaster ride. Make sure you keep your ticket.
"You don't trust me anymore, do you," he said.
"After those photos from the bar? And you abandoning a little boy on a raft? Maybe I'm just a little less confident these days."
From Sourcebooks, new for January.
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