An ARC of this book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The novel is set in a small town in Pennsylvania called Mount Oanoake. The town made its money from a paper mill which we learn is now disused which obviously results in an air of depression. The town seems to be divided between the haves (people like Jennifer Lawson) and the have nots (The Hamm’s). ‘You were no one if you were poor in this town. More accurately, you were just like everyone else who didn’t matter.’ All is plodding along in Mount Oanoake until one day a thousand dead starlings fall on the baseball field. During the press investigation of this phenomenon, a reporter sees Nate Winters (the well-respected and loved baseball coach) embracing one of his students (Lucia) in from of a motel. Events become more complicated when Lucia claims to have been having an affair with Nate. Lucia later disappears and the main suspect is Nate. His good friend Bridget is the only one who truly believes him and sets out to clear his name.
This is exactly the kind of thriller I am drawn to….why?? I think a small town setting really works in a thriller. The novel becomes completely character driven and not plot driven. This was true of Moretti’s novel which if I’m honest was a bit of a slow burn and it was the small town reaction to the scandal which was so intriguing. Guilty until proven guilty is the motto of this town. My issue with the book is that I really disliked the majority of the characters. Nate was the kind of teacher that you would worry about if he taught at your child’s school. Following his students on social media to gain the kind of adoration he felt he was lacking at home??? He seemed like spoiled child. My favourite chapters were Alecia’s. She was the character I really engaged with and this is where I really felt Moretti’s writing shone. Alecia’s struggle with her autistic son Gabe was truly moving, utterly believable and heart-wrenching. Alecia’s wonderful parenting of her son actually made me resent Nate all the more and unfortunately even Bridget (who we are supposed to love) made me really angry when she told Alecia to think about Nate for once instead of always focusing on Gabe. Alecia was the only character I cared about or respected….I just couldn’t work out why she fell in love with Nate in the first place.
All in all, I felt this had the makings of a good book but for me I wish the characters had been better developed.
Thanks again to the publisher for the ARC.