Ridley Jones takes her film in to be developed. When she picks it
up, an FBI agent takes the photos from her and questions her. Her
interrogator, Dylan Grace, shows Ridley a familiar and impossible
figure of a man in the background in three of her pictures. He
vaguely looks like Ridley's biological father, always known to her
as Uncle Max. And yet, it can't be. Uncle Max is dead; Ridley
viewed his body moments before he was cremated.
When Ridley assures Agent Grace that the mysterious figure can't be
her Uncle Max, Agent Grace claims it might be. He reminds her that
Max's apartment is a shrine to Ridley and to Max's love for her,
suggesting that Max, if alive, would be drawn back to her. But, of
course, that makes no sense. Ridley believes that the FBI is
desperate to find someone to blame for kidnappings that are
connected to the Project Rescue operation Max had started to enable
mothers to safely abandon unwanted babies. Could the FBI be so
desperate that they want to charge a ghost with the crime?
Ridley's boyfriend Jake, a Project Rescue baby, informs Ridley that
he has learned some horrifying things about Max. She examines the
newspaper clippings and other paperwork that Jake has accumulated
about Max. One of the clippings centers on the murder of Max's
mother; after reading it, Ridley tracks down a second cousin,
Nicholas had spoken up after Max's father was convicted of his
wife's death. Nicholas had claimed to the police that he had seen
another man at Max's parents' house the night of the murder --- and
that Max's father had not been home. Although Max's father died in
prison, Ridley would love to clear her grandfather's name. However,
Nicholas informs Ridley of the real truth about the killing, and
it's unbearable: the person he saw standing over the murdered
woman, with a smile on his face and blood on his fists, was Max.
Ridley knows that Nicholas believes what he is saying, yet none of
it meshes with her memories of her Uncle Max.
When she learns that Nicholas is a diagnosed paranoid
schizophrenic, it casts even more doubt on his story. Still, she
knows that his mental illness doesn't necessarily mean he's not
telling the truth. Muddying the waters further, articles that Jake
has kept regarding Max and/or Project Rescue were all written by a
journalist who, along with her husband, has been missing for weeks.
Little does Ridley know that the search for the truth has just
Author Lisa Unger writes in an intimate style, confiding in the
reader, which makes the story (already compelling) completely
irresistible. The plot twists, turns, bewilders and confounds,
while managing to feel realistic.
This intelligent thriller doesn't rely on plot alone, delving
deeply into the main character's mind and soul. Although this
sequel to BEAUTIFUL LIES works as a stand-alone, readers would be
well-served to start with its predecessor first to avoid brief
moments of confusion regarding back-story references. They will
want to read both books anyway for the pure pleasure of full-bodied
characters, off-kilter shocks and gripping pace.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org) on January 23, 2011