This is a story that will linger with you long after you've read the last page or heard the last word.
Eliza Benedict is a seemingly unflappable mother of two living in suburban Maryland with her husband, Peter, and two children. The eldest is Isobel who has chosen to be called “Iso,” although her father thinks it should be “Izzo” or people will see it as short for “isotope.” She's a difficult teenager seeming to dislike everything since the family's return to America after six years in England. The Benedict son, 8-year-old Albie, is an affable child often plagued by nightmares.
All seems relatively normal in the household until the day a letter arrives – a “real letter” as Iso calls it addressed to “Elizabeth,” the name she used “before” as Eliza now terms it. The “before” refers to before she was kidnapped the summer she was 15 by Walter Bowman, held captive for almost six weeks and then raped before miraculously finding herself free. The letter is from Bowman who is now on Death Row for killing another young girl and suspected of killing more. He wants to talk to Elizabeth as he still calls her.
Eliza has successfully managed to compartmentalize what happened to her that long ago summer. Peter knows about most of it, and the children know nothing. She believed that she had kept herself hidden from anyone connected with that event – from the unscrupulous writer who had penned a tacky version of her time with Bowman, from the press who might like to revive the story now that Bowman's execution date is nearing, and from Bowman himself.
She fears not only for herself but for her family, yet she also finds that she unable to totally escape from the control Bowman once held over her. Why did he let her live while the other girls died? Did she owe him anything? Does she owe a debt to the families of the other victims? Eliza answers his letter hoping that will be the end of it, but he asks for a phone call. He knows what strings to pull just as she recognizes the terrifying sociopath he is and the man he believes himself to be.
Alternating between past and present Lippman's story is scrupulously plotted as she details the affect the kidnappings have had not only on the victims and their families, but on others as well. These characters are clearly drawn, not only physically but psychologically as the story builds to a surprising denouement.
- Gail Cooke
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