No one ever thought that Aurora "Rory" Mackenzie would return to Ransom River, California, the town of her youth --- least of all Rory herself. But when the nonprofit she’s been working for overseas loses its funding, she heads home, dejected, only to discover that she’s been summoned as a juror on a high-profile murder case in which the defendants are both cops. Rory, who’s an attorney, is surprised to be chosen as juror number seven, but hopes that the case will be over quickly so that she can figure out where to go next. However, it turns out that this is only the beginning of unfolding events that will lead Rory not only back into her town and family relationships, but also into a past she had hoped not to revisit.
"Readers are asked to assemble a staggering array of puzzle pieces just as Rory herself does. But Gardiner practically guarantees that you will be willing to put forth the effort, starting out the book with two breathlessly suspenseful scenes that provide both mystery and momentum that will invest you deeply in Rory’s story from the very first page to the last."
Just as the case is about to wrap up, two masked gunmen explode into the courtroom, making bizarre demands and threatening jurors, defendants, the judge and onlookers alike. The hostage situation is averted without much bloodshed, but when the police review the security tape, they start to ask questions about Rory’s involvement with the gunmen. Why did they single her out for special treatment? Why did she talk with them as if she knew them?
Things don’t look good for Rory, and unfortunately the only way to clear her name is to start asking questions she never expected or wanted to ask. This involves delving deep into her dysfunctional family background, along with her failed relationship with her childhood best friend, Seth (also a cop), and an event from their childhood that still haunts both of them, not to mention Rory’s parents. Rory might have thought she was done with Ransom River, but it turns out it was anything but done with her.
Meg Gardiner has made a name for herself over the past few years with two series of excellent mysteries starring journalist Evan Delaney and forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett. RANSOM RIVER is a departure from both of these, as she instead offers a stand-alone thriller. Certain elements of Gardiner’s previous work are still evident here, particularly her effective plotting and her portrayal of capable but vulnerable heroines with complicated histories and motivations.
Readers are asked to assemble a staggering array of puzzle pieces just as Rory herself does. But Gardiner practically guarantees that you will be willing to put forth the effort, starting out the book with two breathlessly suspenseful scenes that provide both mystery and momentum that will invest you deeply in Rory’s story from the very first page to the last.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on July 6, 2012