This unusual and disturbing story is part mystery, and part examination of a small, very dysfunctional group of people.
Lydia was psychologically scarred when she was 10 by being the only survivor of a gruesome murder at the house where she was at a sleepover. She managed to hide, but her girlfriend Carol and Carol’s parents were killed horrifically by someone who was never found, but was known thereafter as “The Hammerman.” The story was sensationalized at the time and retained a certain cult status, so Lydia uses a different last name, seeking to remain anonymous. She has never even told her boyfriend of five years about her past.
Now 30, Lydia has been working for the past six years at Bright Ideas Bookstore in Denver. As the story opens, one of the regulars in the store, Joey, just hung himself from the rafters of the top floor. It is Lydia who discovers him, and to her shock, she finds a childhood picture of herself in one of his pockets. She sets out to discover how he got this, and what message Joey intended for her. Her quest is aided by the fact that Joey bequeathed her his meager possessions, among them a set of mutilated books offering her clues, if a bit hard to decipher.
Lydia’s investigations eventually yield a number of shocking secrets, upending everything she thought she knew, and allowing her finally to solve the mystery of what really happened that traumatic night of her childhood she can never forget.
Evaluation: The mysteries in this book weren’t all that well hidden, but the process of their unfolding was interesting. But this isn’t a pleasant or diverting book; nor did it, in my opinion, offer any justification for including such nightmarish and violent images. It’s almost – but not quite – a horror story. I can’t say I enjoyed it enough to have been glad I read it.
Published by Scribner, and imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2017