An intelligent and surprising nail-biter…
McDowell returns with a sequel to Level Zero in this gripping latest. Nancy Helbens Richards is at her wits end: if a failing marriage and dwindling finances are not enough, she’s agonized over the mysterious disappearance of her young son. Working night shifts at Oak Hollow seems like an apt distraction until her past comes unraveling, threatening to destroy her present. Meanwhile, free-form writing for the Statesman barely keeps Vic Ramsey afloat at work. What he needs is a whopper of a story that will not only bring in sales but also solidify his position at the newspaper. On a whim, Vic decides to investigate the peculiarities at Oak Hollow hotel, unaware his life will never be the same again. McDowell’s writing is assured and steeped in atmosphere, and the story line includes enough family drama and suspense to keep the reader going to the end. This is a slender novel, just a hair longer than a novella, but McDowell weaves in enough backstory to give depth to Vic and Nancy’s characters, and he is excellent when it comes to weaving tension seamlessly into the narrative. Vic occupies plenty of space in the story, but it’s Nancy, who shines through and through. Even more intriguing is her relationship with Bobbie and Agatha. McDowell consistently inverts familiar situations, converting them into moments of intense psychological horror; even the heartening, satisfying wrap-up eventually proves to be a shocker of a climax. Readers will be thrilled with this expert combination of suspense, psychological horror, and family drama. McDowell is on a roll.
By Dan McDowell