This Southern Gothic set in North Carolina brings together several lost souls seeking redemption. Elizabeth Black is a white police officer on suspension for using excessive force in killing two black kidnappers/rapists. Adrian Wall, a former police officer, is released after serving 13 years in prison for the murder of Julia Strange. Elizabeth has always thought him innocent of the crime. The two are brought together when more women are killed in the same way as Julia was.
Elizabeth has few friends. She is alienated from her father, a local preacher, and most of her fellow officers who don’t share her belief in Adrian’s innocence. She does, however, maintain relationships with 14-year-old Gideon, Julia’s son, who is neglected by his alcoholic father and with Channing, the victim of the two men Elizabeth shot 18 times.
There are several subplots. Gideon is obsessed with avenging his mother’s death; Channing, whose family is not the most supportive, is trying to find her way after being kidnapped and raped; Elizabeth also seems to be suffering from post-traumatic stress and is being investigated for possible charges of police brutality; Adrian must make a new life after years of incarceration and mistreatment in prison when threats follow him into freedom; police must solve more murder cases. All of these narrative threads are eventually connected.
Character development is flawed. Elizabeth and Adrian are complex; we see both their admirable qualities and their flaws. What they share is a willingness to risk their lives in order to help others; sometimes, however, the extent to which they are willing to sacrifice their self-interests is unbelievable. Also, the number of physically and emotionally damaged characters is excessive. The police do not always behave credibly; for instance, they so easily mistrust one of their own and don’t set up surveillance at a crime scene even after two consecutive murders at the same site. Some of the villains seem to lack any humanity so they are less believable, as are some older characters who seem too good to be true. And everyone has big secrets!
The plot is somewhat formulaic. There’s the serial killer who manages to elude police officers; there’s the cop framed for a crime; there’s the graphic violence; and there’s prison abuse and police corruption. There’s the requisite action scene at the end where characters’ lives are on the line. These elements are expected considering the genre, but what is disappointing is that the identity of the killer is obvious early on and the twists and turns are not really surprising. The ending is weak. The epilogue which is supposed to touch readers’ hearts is just too sentimental.
I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the book. It is sufficiently interesting. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it does not deserve the ever-so-positive, uncritical reviews it has received.