From Publishers Weekly
An act of kindness leads to horrors in a sober, wrenching literary thriller. Carl and Jessie
, a long-married and loving couple, are enjoying a quiet retirement in their isolated Maine house. Their one real worry is their schizophrenic, institutionalized daughter, Sylvie, who one day calls to say that she has run away from her facility. As the couple worries about Sylvie, a young man calling himself Jonah appears, claiming that his camping gear was stolen from a nearby site. Ignoring Carl's wariness, Jessie offers Jonah a bed for the night; Jonah responds by taking them hostage in their home. Jonah, they eventually learn, is Sylvie's boyfriend from the facility, a schizophrenic who plays a torturous series of psychological games with the couple that bring dark family histories to light. Thayer (Strong for Potatoes
; A Certain Slant of Light
) underplays the more lurid aspects of her story line, choosing instead to generate tension with dialogue and taut, well-crafted scenes as Carl and Jessie try to escape and Jonah's behavior careens toward deadly violence. Sylvie's eerie presence hovers in the background throughout, and the climax features a revelation about Carl that completely changes Jessie's impression of her protective, gentle husband. The dark suspense in this concentrated psychological character study makes for a genuine page-turner.
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Carl and Jessie
Jensen are enjoying their retirement in the remote reaches of Maine until a stranded camper named Jonah arrives at their front door. While the kindhearted couple senses menace in the young man's eyes, they invite him to stay for dinner and spend the night. (Both wonder if Jonah is a friend of their mentally troubled daughter, Sylvie, who escaped from an area psychiatric home earlier that day.) The Jensens' worst fears are confirmed the following morning, as Jonah takes the pair hostage, insistent that he is fulfilling the wishes of God. The simmering scenario reaches a rolling boil as Jonah forces Carl, a French Gypsy who survived the Nazi concentration camps, to explain the patchwork of scars on his back and the German inscription on his violin. Jessie, meanwhile, plays mind games with Jonah as she furiously searches for a means of escape. Maine resident Thayer--Strong for Potatoes
(1999), A Certain Slant of Light
(2001)--creates relentless suspense in this taut literary chiller that pits the mad against the sane. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved