Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane doesn’t particularly enjoy being touted as the hero of Hidden Springs after pulling a suicidal man back from the edge of the Eagle River bridge in front of dozens of witnesses–a few of whom caught the breathtaking moments with their cameras. But the media hype doesn’t last long as a new story pushes its way into the public consciousness of Hidden Springs’ concerned citizens.
Photos of a dead girl arrive in the mail, and Michael becomes convinced she was murdered by the man he saved. With a killer one step ahead, things in Hidden Springs begin to unravel. Now Michael must protect the people he loves–because the killer could be targeting one of them next.
Aunt Lindy reached up to lay her hand on his cheek. “I’m proud of the way you saved that man out on the bridge. It could have so easily gone the other way.”
“It was just routine. I did what any other police officer would have done.”
“You kept him from jumping.”
“I didn’t keep him from wanting to.”
She frowned a little. “Wonder what would bring a man to such a state?”
“Who knows?” Michael shrugged. “Money trouble, drugs, women. Depression. It could be anything.”
“Your grandfather always said every man has his demons. The successful man is he who learns to control his.”
“I think this guy needed crowd control.” He remembered the look on the man’s face as he lay on the road staring up at Michael.
“Thanks to you, he will have a chance to work through his problems now. We should pray for him.”
After she went inside, Michael waited until the light came on in the window of his aunt’s sitting room and then headed home. As he drove through the woods to his log house on the lake, he hardly gave a thought to Julie Lynne chasing him down in Hidden Springs. He kept seeing the jumper and hearing his words. “You’ll wish you’d pushed me.”
It hadn’t exactly sounded like a threat. More like a promise.
This one started out quite promisingly, but declined as the story progressed. The basic premise was fairly original. Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane becomes Hidden Springs’ instant hero when he prevents a suicidal man from jumping off the Eagle River bridge, but as he releases the man into the hands of the paramedics the man tells Michael, “You’ll wish you’d pushed me.” Michael puzzles over the man’s words in the coming days, but they suddenly take on chilling meaning when photos of a dead girl arrive at the Sheriff’s office with the message: “I told you you’d be sorry you didn’t push me.” Suddenly Michael’s heroic effort doesn’t feel so heroic any more. Has he saved a psychopath?
When a second victim turns up, accompanied by similar photos and another note, Michael begins to question who will be next. It’s beginning to look like their jumper is targeting people with some connection to Michael, and he becomes concerned that the women closest to him might be targeted next: his Aunt Lindy; the local pastor, Karen; his secretary, Betty Jean; and, of course, his long-time best friend and not-quite-unrequited love, Alexandria.
While I wasn’t exactly bored by this mystery, I wasn’t enthralled either. For starters, the story was a bit slow to get moving (after the initial scene at the bridge). I love small-town atmosphere in a novel, but some of the scenes and dialogue in the novel went on a bit and didn’t seem to serve any purpose apart from being an example of small-town goings-on, which contributed to the slow pacing. Michael also tended to be quite reflective at times, spending as much time alone in his own contemplation as he does with other characters.
As in the first novel in the series, I was pretty sure I had it figured out well before the half-way point in the novel (except for the ‘why’). The clues were just a little bit too obvious. Ironically, neither Michael, nor the Eagleton detectives he is forced to work with, manage to pick up on them, and this was part of my biggest disappointment: there was very little (if any) actual detective work that took place. In fact, no one ‘solved’ or even really investigated the case at all. The climax was a very clichéd (and somewhat unconvincing) scene where the killer takes them by surprise and reveals all, thinking he has won the day, but even after all his gleeful boasting about his own cleverness, I’m still not sure I understood why any of it happened.
All in all, I guess you could say this promising mystery was a bit of a let-down in the end. It amounted to little more than Michael discovering bodies, being told what to do (or not do) by the Eagleton detectives, worrying about the females in his life, and wondering what would happen next. The only real tension for me was wondering who the next victim would turn out to be. And while the writing wasn’t bad, it didn’t bring any life or colour to the story either. If it wasn’t for the fact that I want to see what eventually happens between Michael and Alexandria, I probably wouldn’t pick up the next one in the series.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Revell in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 17 May 2016
Publisher: Revell Books
Author’s website: http://www.annhgabhart.com/