I liked this very suspenseful book – I read it within one day as R.T. Graham had my attention from cover to cover. This ‘nice little town’ has a creepy underside that makes for edge-of-your seat reading at many points. I was particularly impressed with the way the author kept the suspense fairly tight all the way through the book while alternating between the ordinary and the extraordinary.
A year after losing his wife and daughter in a horrible head-on collision in Seattle, Sheriff Evan Spicer and his other daughter, 14-year-old, Stevie, decide to start a new life in Essex Valley, California, in a redwoods area. At first the town appears to be an idyllic village where everyone knows one another and life is pleasant and serene. Sheriff Spicer, however, begins to learn of the mysterious disappearances of homeless people living on the edge of town and of other uprooted people and that some of the townspeople – a gang of ‘goths’ in particular, and other ‘bad actors;- have been harassing them. Three ‘goths’ who like to intimidate people become suspects in the strange, nearly clueless, disappearances cases.
“Fang”, the leader of the ‘goths’ and considered a ‘violent boy’ – tries to intimidate the locals too but now focuses his criminal pranks on the sheriff and worse, on Stevie. Fang makes very clear to the sheriff that he is intent on forming an unhealthy relationship with her. Stevie is very bright and tells her dad she can handle the situation but Evan tells her to have nothing to do with these violence-prone individuals who are about 18-20 years old. Fang, however, stalks her, and someone is breaking into their house at night, and one watches Stevie while she sleeps. Someone leaves a snake in their closed mailbox.
The author skillfully creates an undercurrent of sustained dread that emanates from these ‘bad actors” who appear again and again to cause fear to the newcomers. They also try to intimidate Kate, the owner of the Purple Dragon Restaurant, and who also is romantically interested in Evan . Many residents characterize the town – jokingly at times – as a nice quiet little town but beneath the surface, bad things happen including the disappearance of the police chief whose body was not found but whose car with his blood-soaked shirt on the passenger’s seat was located at the bottom of a cliff. Evan had moved with Stevie to Essex Valley to replace the former sheriff.
Lots of twists and turns in a tightly-woven plot. The book also is something of a cautionary tale as even sheriffs can allow their children to go places unaccompanied – walking to school through a woods trail alone, for example – and 14-year-old young ladies can get into trouble fast if they ignore parental advice. I highly recommend this book. I hope to read more from this author.