Author: Joan Hall Hovey
Genre: Suspense, 258 pages
Price: Kindle eBook: $2.99 Print Book: $10.79
Publisher website address: http://bwlpp.com/mysteries.php
Author’s personal website: http://www.joanhallhovey.com
Caroline Hill, a fragile woman who’s seen more than her share of heartbreak, has just been released into the “real” world by the Bayshore Mental Institution, an aging facility recently doomed to closure. Trembling with fear after nine years of incarceration, at the age of twenty-six Caroline is armed only with a handful of memorized phrases from her psychiatrist and a small bag of hand-me-down clothing. She shows up as pre-arranged to a rooming house with a nosy landlady and her marginally challenged nephew, Harold. Once settled, Caroline makes her entrance at Frank’s, a local diner in the small town of St. Simeon, Canada where a dishwashing job awaits her.
Although the Bayshore institution offered safety and familiarity, Caroline is determined not to fail. The last thing she wants is to return to the place where she shared a room with a woman who clicked imaginary knitting needles 24/7.
Caroline’s timing is unfortunate, because the day she arrives in town, a serial killer has left yet another victim for police. And it so happens, the first victim—an aspiring actress on the verge of a breakthrough—lived across the hall from Caroline’s new room. Police and neighbors wonder – could the killer be someone in the rooming house? How did he gain access to the facility? How did he know the first woman? And the second? Both victims were pretty young ladies with brunette hair and blue eyes, Caroline’s exact appearance.
The mystery and suspense in this novel is outstanding, truly top notch, in the vein of Mary Higgins Clark, but—dare I say—even better? What really struck me as brilliant was Ms. Hovey’s ability to paint the picture of an innocent, a woman who’d been raised by an institutional staff since the age of seventeen, when a horrendous event tore her heart out and separated her from reality. Caroline’s inner thoughts, her hesitant and sometimes awkward speech, the turmoil she feels with each simple step toward freedom, her frail courage…each of these felt real and authentic. I grew incredibly fond of this protagonist, and with each brave step she took, I found myself cheering her on.
When Caroline notices a man following her, she wants to tell someone, but what ex-mental patient wouldn’t be afraid to share this news, knowing they’d probably classify her as paranoid and maybe send her back to Bayshore? She squares her shoulders and fights through the fear, soldiering on.
Against the backdrop of Caroline’s painful yet courageous re-entry into society, the low growling drumbeat of violence escalates. More women die, and the pattern heats up. We are given glimpses inside the mind of a seriously sick killer, and realize his delusions stretch far into his past. When Caroline becomes embroiled in the middle of the killer’s elaborate and insane plot to return to a chapter in his history where he was once happy, the action escalates and takes us on a heart-pounding rollercoaster ride to a satisfying finish.
Joan Hall Hovey has written yet another winner. I highly recommend it to any lover of suspense, mystery, romance, or thriller. You’ll not only race through this book, but clamor for more works by this talented and polished author.