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A Great Thriller That Falls Apart in the End . . .
One summer three camp employees go missing just as an escaped dangerous criminal is said to be loose in the area. Is it all connected? Just what happened those two nights twenty years ago when three teenagers vanished?
The story opens with Elle, one of the camp counselors preparing to jump off a cliff. She is pregnant and her boyfriend, Lucas, just dumped her for another girl at the camp. She's waffling when she hears something behind her and then sees someone she seems to know. Did she see something she shouldn't have as she's shoved off the cliff, presumably, to her death?
The next night, Jobeth (think Regina King or Pretty Little Liars' Ali before she was morphed into little miss nice), summons all the girl counselors to a secret meeting where she wants them to all stick to the same story so the police don't think they're involved with Elle's disappearance. Unbeknownst to them, they're also going to serve as her alibi as she and her toady, Reva, plan a nasty little prank against Monica O'Neal, who slept with her boyfriend, Tyler, and got pregnant.
Monica goes to meet Tyler and finds him presumably dead then she hears someone in the cabin beckon to her. She thinks it's Tyler's killer and goes running through the woods to get back to camp, but just as she's about to reach safety, someone grabs her and drags her away and that's the last anyone ever sees of her.
Fast forward twenty years, and Elle's ex-boyfriend, Lucas is a detective and he's called in when the skull of a woman is found on the grounds of his father's now deserted summer camp. Is it Elle or is it Monica? And who killed them?
Lucas, our hero, was kind of a sleaze when he was a teenager. He was screwing Elle and his own stepmother at the same time. But then he saw Bernadette and he was a one-woman man. I kind of feel like the twist at the end involving Elle was done to make him seem less sleazy, but it didn't work. I didn't really buy it from the way she was described and from the opening scene of the novel.
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All the female counselors return to the scene of the crime, with Jobeth, once again, trying to bully them into lying. This reunites Lucas with the girl he never forgot, Bernadette, who's grown a pair since she was a teenager and stands up to Jobeth. This is another turn in character when at first it seems Bernadette's youngest sister is the one who wants to tell the truth and stand up to Jobeth and by the time they arrive back at the camp she's all ready to cave to Jobeth and it's Bernadette who suddenly grows a pair and stands up to her. A way to make Bernadette look better?
There are also several sightings of Ghost Elle which begs the question if she's really dead or alive. And if she's alive, then what's her game? Is she still in love with Lucas after all these years? Has she been in hiding from the person that tried to kill her? Or, since she was described as being one short of a full load, has she become a total psycho out to kill all she blames for what happened to her?
As it turns out the three disappearances of Elle, Monica and stable boy Dustin, aren't connected, at all. Dustin didn't see something that night that made someone kill him to silence him. A twist with Dustin I didn't buy either was him being a pedophile when the guy was interested in girls his own age. It just didn't ring true. And the whole side plot of Lucas threatening him to stay away from his younger sister wasn't even needed in the book as it added nothing to the story. Guess they needed something to show Lucas wasn't a total cad.
In a lot of ways, the story is effectively over when early on the killer is revealed and arrested. It's at this point you realize none of the disappearances were even connected. It's a bit of a letdown. As was all the girls getting a text saying, "YOU WILL PAY."
When Sosi, who is pregnant, is the first to get the text, it made you wonder if the killer is going after pregnant girls. Elle was pregnant when she got shoved off the cliff, everyone thought Monica was pregnant when she got attacked in the woods, and now Sosi returns pregnant and she gets a text, too. But when all the other girls get the same text that kills that idea.
Up until the moment the only character that was repeatedly told "YOU WILL PAY" was Lucas. It could have been a good twist if this was all happening because he was such a callous horndog when he was a teenager. Now someone was trying to make him pay.
Another reason it was a letdown is because right after that, the killer is revealed and it's obvious they had nothing to do with the text message. It might have been a better idea if they had revealed who the killer was in the last few pages of the book. Instead, there was a plot involving Bernadette, her sister, Annette and Lucas' stepmother, Naomi. It was another WTF moment and didn't make much sense. It's never good when characters do something that makes no sense, at all.
There were quite a few red herrings that might have made the story better if they had gone with them instead of the way the story actually went. Like Lucas' stepbrother, Ryan, who vowed Lucas would pay for stealing Elle from him. But that didn't go anywhere, unfortunately.
It's a shame the ending is so weak because it's a great page-turner until it all starts falling apart. If the ending had been better I'd rate this book with five stars, but because of the ending, I would only give it four stars. It draws you into the story and you keep reading wanting to know the truth, but once you find out the truth it doesn't really make much sense.