An online marketing consultant, an avid reader of 400 + books a year. Professional reader, reviewer, and blogger. Enjoy ARCs and new releases.
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date: 10/1/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
A special thank you to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
James Hankins returns following the popular Shady Cross with a psychological mystery crime suspense page-turner, THE PRETTIEST ONE —a memory wiped out, a decades old crime, a race against time, and two men risking it all, to save the woman they both love.
Caitlin Sommers, a real estate agent finds herself in a fog. She has no idea the time, date, or where she is. Everything is hazy. She recalled going to a store and buying something yellow. She is in a strange place and does not recognize how she arrived.
She gets in a strange car and is almost on audio-pilot. She thinks her husband is Josh and she begins driving, not really sure where she is or where she is going. No cell phone. However, she makes her way home to Bristol, New Hampshire a few hours away. Nothing makes sense.
When she arrives home, Josh is so glad to see his wife. He is beyond shocked. She has been missing for seven months.
She now is wearing different clothes and her hair is red instead of blonde. She also has lost weight and has a bad haircut. She has no clue where she has been for seven months. No memory at all. She is unaware they suspected Josh of foul play since the authorities have been unable to locate her. Everyone has been frantically searching for her. She also has blood on her clothes, but does not seem to be hurt.
She is exhausted, goes to bed and they decide the next day they will search for answers, and try and figure out whose car she has stolen. She will go back the way she came, if she can remember and try and find why she was in another town and what she had been doing. She needs to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
However, when they get to the car, there is bag, a gun and a bag of prosthetic hands? Instead of going to the police, she wants to find answers first. Did she kill someone? Why is she driving a car registered to Katherine Southard?
In the desperate search, they discover Caitlin was going by another name, Katie, and she was living with a guy named Bix, and they were engaged in Massachusetts. She had a job and was living a separate life. She has no memory of knowing this man.
The three of them begin an intriguing journey, a mystery, a dangerous past. Josh did not want to return to the place his wife had been, as possibly it was something so tragic, she has blocked it out. However, he goes along with her wishes. Why was she in Smithfield, Massachusetts? If she had committed a crime, the police would be looking for her.
Caitlin/Katie has experienced bad ongoing nightmares of the Bogeyman for years. It was the same nightmare she since she was little. He always said, “I’ve got you, my pretty Caitlin.” He was gross, His eyes, his hands, his rotting smell like garbage.Who is this monster? Could he be real? What happened to her in her childhood?
In the meantime, there is another character, Chops who kills people in his garage. He has a wife and young daughter, under the appearance of a hard working construction owner and family man. An evil hit man and he is trying to locate another man. Until later in the book, you are unaware how he is connected.
Josh, Bix, and Caitlin/Katie find themselves in the middle of a crime, several murders, and a dangerous plot from years ago when the past and the present collide.
Why would Caitlin drive to another town and have a normal life with someone else, and be unable to recall that life? People have been murdered, and they are led to these rough bars and basement fight clubs, and appears Katie was a regular customer. What was she doing in these places? Now she is somewhat of a mystery to both Josh and Bix. Who is this woman and who is out to get her and why?
The more online research Josh conducts, he discovers Catlin may have dissociative fugue; whereby, a person not only loses their memory and the knowledge of herself, but she might travel to a new place and set up an entirely new identity somewhere. Which is exactly what she did.
The condition could be triggered by by extreme stress or trauma. A person could wander off. It can last as short as a few hours, a day, months, or years. They establish new relationships. No one seems to know exactly what makes them come out of a fugue state. It could be seeing something small or something that reminds them enough of their former life. Or some experts think that a traumatic event of some kind could snap a person out, especially if it somehow relates to whatever put them in that state in the first place.
As the layers are peeled back, more hidden sadistic acts are uncovered, and Detective Charlotte Hunnsaker is on the case and is clueless. There is a warehouse shooting, a murder, a red head, and fingerprints and a long ago kidnapping, an abduction, a pedophile. How are all these elements connected?
Aside from the crimes, evil men, and the mystery . . you are dying to know which man, if either will Catlin/Katie choose when this is over. Who will survive? And if Catlin will end up behind bars?
One thing about James Hankins -- you are always surprised—having read all his books, each one is unique, creative, and different. He always hooks you from the beginning, keeping you in suspense--you never know what is coming next.
What I enjoyed about THE PRETTIEST ONE, was the banter between Josh and Bix; the relationship dynamics also between the three. All three characters were well-developed . . Two totally different guys, both in love with the same girl, and Caitlin/Katie was almost like two different people, with her wide range of personalities.
James did a super job with the wit, emotion, intensity, humor, and frustration of the two guys in this love triangle mystery. One life was more conservative; whereas, the other more on the wild side. How the guys stuck together for the greater cause, to help find the killer, and protect Catlin was a strong part of the storyline.
The Dissociative Fugue, like episodes of amnesia was quite intriguing. Hankins used a nice spin, connecting the plots. Have read there are rare cases when a person is still in the fugue, when recovering information is critical (with help from law enforcement or social services) about his/her true identity, figuring out why they were abandoned, and facilitating its restoration is key.
For you psycho-thriller fans the most powerful part of the thriller, was the kidnapping years ago of the three girls, the sadistic man, and family involved in the present story. Recommend for those readers who enjoy a slow burning complex crime mystery with a psycho-evil twist.
Fans of Chevy Stevens and Karin Slaughter will enjoy (when you read, you will know the parts I am referring to).
Highly recommend all Hankins' books!