From Publishers Weekly
Mistaken identity and a decades-old coverup collide in this underwhelming Southern thriller from Abrahams (Nerve Damage
) set in the wake of a Katrina-like hurricane. Nell Jarreau's eyewitness testimony sent Alvin Pirate DuPree to prison for the murder of her then-boyfriend, Johnny Blanton. Twenty years later, Nell is shocked when a mysterious tape surfaces that exonerates DuPree. Warned by her husband, Clay—the lead detective on Johnny's case and now the chief of police of Belle Ville, a New Orleans–like city—to leave the case alone, Nell is haunted by her role in imprisoning an innocent man. When an old reporter friend resurfaces to research the DuPree story, and Nell's daughter, Norah, who is Johnny's biological child, starts behaving oddly, Nell realizes she must uncover Johnny's true killer before her life spins out of control. Guilt or innocence aside, DuPree is a highly unlikable and inarticulate character, while Nell herself is too one-dimensional to carry the dramatic weight of the story. Fans of Abrahams's complex earlier novels will hope for a return to form next time. (Apr.)
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Abrahams, who has been dividing his time lately between literary thrillers for adults (his stock-in-trade for years) and his award-winning Echo Falls mystery series for kids (the second volume, Behind the Curtain, appeared in 2006), returns to the adult beat with this psychological suspense tale. Nell Jarreau considers her life to be perfect: a loving husband; a job she likes; a nice home; a beautiful daughter. But that wasn’t always so; her first love (and the father of her daughter) was gunned down 20 years before. Now, based on new evidence, the man imprisoned for the crime has been exonerated. “Pirate” is free. Could Nell’s identification all those years ago have been wrong? Did she send an innocent man to jail? Her husband, one of the men who investigated the case, reassures her; it’s just one of those legal snafus, he insists. But his odd behavior and questions posed by an ambitious reporter are puzzling enough to make her doubt herself. In the meantime, Pirate enters a world he no longer understands and tries to apply his jailhouse mentality to new feelings and situations. As the story unfolds through the measured, very different perspectives of Pirate and Nell, readers catch a glimpse of how betrayal and loyalty can be equally deadly. --Stephanie Zvirin