"So many," Tory whispered.
"All were sexual homicides. Raped and strangled. There was no semen. There was some physical violence, particularly in the facial area. That escalates with each victim."
"Because their faces aren't right. Their faces aren't hers. Hope's."
The main and underlining impetus for this story was the rape and murder of an eight year old girl who was the bestfriend of our heroine, Tory; pretty dark stuff. I couldn't help always having that in the back of my mind, even though the author kind of leaves the head on dealing with it until more toward the back end of the second half.
You couldn't erase the past, or kill it, or wish it out of existence . Nor could you will away the present or change what was coming. We were all trapped in that cycle of time, just circling around the core of yesterdays. Sometimes those yesterdays were strong enough, willful enough, to suck you back no matter how hard you struggled.
This story is more of an ensemble piece with a secondary romance that I kind of wish got its own book and two handfuls of family and townspeople edging into the spotlight. This, along with the slow almost murky like way of the atmosphere of the story, kept the main couple's romance from being felt. Our hero Cade was the brother of Tory's bestfriend that was murdered and he never truly felt fully fleshed out for me. He comes on a bit stronger at the end but he kind of instantly goes for Tory (I love me some build up) and it ends up more of a willful strong arm relationship, Cade, at times, just telling Tory how it is going to be with Tory initially balking but eventually going along with him. I like a man who knows and shows what he wants but he immediately starts off this way and without the foundation for knowing Tory, it felt pushy and not too terribly romantic.
"He frightens me, and embarrasses me. By trying to keep it contained, as always, I thought I'd limit the fear and humiliation. It's hateful to be a victim, Cade. Makes you feel exposed and angry and somehow guilty at the same time."
With the underlining murder mystery and the two romances, the bulk of this is family dynamics and oof, are there some doozies. Tory's father was physically abusive and with her psychic abilities (Tory can sense emotions from people so strongly she can "see" their thoughts) she can sense some other dark aspects of his personality. Cade's family has the emotional pain of losing a daughter and sibling, swirling around and tearing them apart. The two handfuls of secondary characters are indirectly and at times directly affected by these issues, which leads to some great real moments between characters. However, it also lead to some dragging issues in the middle.
I'm a Yankee, so sometimes when I read these books set in the south I don't quite jive with the beat or tones. There was a languidness, thick, humid, slowly fanning yourself on the porch while you sip iced tea, that I thought slowed the pace the down. Tory's life after her bestfriend was killed isn't really explained until more towards the end but it felt implied she moved back to her hometown to find out truly what happened, for such a big issue, it felt pushed too much too the side. There was also some trope role characters that the author did a good job breathing layers and complexity to, Cade's sister, but others that for a book published in 2000 were disappointingly locked in, Cade's family housekeeper/nanny.
I know mysteries like, to well, keep the mystery going but when they stay to the side for so long, I think they end up feeling unknown or ineffectual. There are clues to who the murderer is but I wanted more insight into them, instead of one ending scene where thoughts and motivations are relayed concisely but quickly.
I liked this, some great emotional complexities were weaved in out, but it was a little slow moving for me. The rape and murder of an eight year old girl is never easy to read about, so be prepared for that, along with physical violence. If you're looking for an unhurried heavy on the family dynamics, mystery, with some romance, and love iced tea, this would be a well written option.