More than a crime story, Maynard’s tale is that of how two sisters, Rachel and Patty, cope raising themselves, caught between a disinterested mother and an absent Police Detective father, during and after the extended period in which a serial killer prowls the hills on which they play. Told from Rachel’s point of view, in the first person, the reader is drawn into the sisters’ world, their family, and Rachel’s development.
With imagination in lieu of spending money, they roam far and wide, inventing stories and games in the vast region crossed by trails and tracks. Up in the hills, they discover (and believe they are the first to do so) a dumped rusted out truck, which becomes a secret place for their days left to their own devices.
To indicate the time period – their musical entertainment is via a small portable record player, with a collection of records retrieved from a dumpster (Black Sabbath, Moody Blues, Rolling Stone, Procol Harum, Led Zeppelin, Arlo Guthrie, Leonard Cohen … ). At the foothills in the evenings, they watch their neighbours’ television through uncurtained windows, making up the dialogue for shows like Charlie’s Angels, Little House on the Prairie, or Brady Bunch re-runs. They cycle, Patty plays basketball, Rachel writes.
When Rachel is thirteen, while watching neighborhood television, they see their father appear on the news. Knowing it must be something important, they follow the line of flight of a Police helicopter overhead, arrive at a gathering of Police vehicles and staff, and learn a girl has gone missing, and a bloodied sock is all that’s been found so far. Rachel realises it’s not a wild animal attack – her faith in her father tells her: if it were an animal attack, her father would not have been called in.
The victim is found, dead and trussed in a particularly unusual position, which is to become the “call sign” of the killer who continues to kill over months. Although everyone is warned not to go up into the hills, people do – the sisters too – and further killings happen. The details of each case are held back from the press, but somehow one or two “info-snips” make the front page.
Rachel, her family knows, sometimes has visions, which often precede events. Now her visions start showing her the killer in action, and she is torn between letting herself waken, or staying in the dream to try to see something her father can use. But her visionary dreams unsettle her so much, her father tells her to stop letting them draw her in. They continue, but she stops passing on what she sees.
As the case of the serial killer continues, taking its toll on her father and the reputation of the local Police, Rachel and Patty continue to grow and develop as all young teens do. Rachel decides to contrive a situation which will bring the killer to them. Their misguided attempt to help causes further trouble for their father. To his shame, the FBI are called and take over. An arrest is made, and although Rachel is able to convince him of her evidence they have arrested the wrong man, he con do nothing.
Thirty years on, after losing her father to lung cancer, Patty becoming a pro basketballer, Rachel studying forensic psychology and becoming a fully fledged writer, Rachel who has remained sure the killer is still at large, begins traveling and tracking killings which fit the same modus operandi.
How successful can she be in trying to put things right?
Reviewed by Lynne Street
by Joyce Maynard
Published by Harper Collins (William Morrow imprint)
ISBN 9780062291844 (international, paperback)
ISBN 9780062257390 (hard cover)