In this mystery, an innocent man is accused of sexually abusing a nine-year-old neighbor, an allegation that will impact both families for years to come.
In 1955, Lynn and Lloyd MacDonald welcome new next-door neighbors Regina and Walter Harris. The MacDonalds even offer to babysit the Harris’ daughters, Allison, 9, and Carin, 6, even though both lead busy lives.
No one suspects that Walter is an abusive husband and father who resents Lloyd and his successful life. When Allison comes home smelling of perfume one day, Walter sees his chance to ruin Lloyd. He accuses him of sexual abuse, and Allison is too afraid of her father to tell the truth. The accusation and ensuing trial ruin Lloyd’s life.
Eight years later, when Walter is found dead, police suspect Lloyd’s son Bruce. But Bruce’s friends, Pastor David Elliott and his wife Judy, don’t believe it – and aim to find the real killer.
The book occurs in two time periods: 1955 and 1963. Herrington is a skilled writer, and the 1955 chapters are a particularly enthralling look at how false accusations can destroy a loving, kind man of faith. The chapters on Lloyd and his family are so well-written that readers will fly through the pages. Pastor Elliott and his wife are pleasant company, lightening the mood with their easy banter.
However, the novel also has structural issues. The mystery itself is less engaging than the book’s first part, with too many red herrings and surprise false identities. And although this seems to be a stand-alone novel, questions arise that might be explained in earlier David Elliott books: i.e., what is the traumatic event in the pastor and his wife’s past?
Readers might want to start at the series’ beginning so that all the dominoes click into place here. As is, the novel offers interesting characters wrapped in an uneven plot.
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