Tromp’s debut was a pleasant surprise and I especially enjoyed the Southern voice she adopted. It’s the 1940s in the small town of Hot Springs and Sam Mattas has just returned from war suffering with combat fatigue (which we now know as PTSD). He arrives unexpectedly to an empty house which sets the scene for much of the early tension of the story.
Annie, his wife, returns from town to find Sam asleep in the barn and even though warmly welcomed it’s clear not all is as it should be. Annie has been well supported in Sam’s absence by his brother, Peter, and best friend, Doc and immediately he senses he’s the misfit. Sam also returns to his daughter, Rosie, who he hasn’t met, she being born soon after his departure for war.
The first half of the story focuses on the tension between Annie and Sam as they seek to settle into their new lives together. But his combat fatigue keeps getting in the way making both of them question his sanity and her safety. Doc’s strong friendship with Annie also adds cause for unease.
In parallel, there’s this undercurrent of corruption that is rife within the town and how Sam, at one point, was involved in it to some extent being employed by Annie’s father, The Judge, who happens to be up to his eyeballs in no good working for the Mayor who encourages it. Or is he?
A lot can happen in 3 years; people change, towns change.
A story that starts as a relatively sleepy small town tale of a marriage reunion suddenly takes off in the second half to a thrilling suspenseful one that makes the reader keep turning the pages. It’s tremendous writing as the twists and turns keep on coming. Who are the good guys and who can you trust?
The characters are rich in their portrayal and Tromp demonstrates her story telling skills with the deftness in which we are kept guessing.
I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook version of the story from Kregel via NetGalley as a result of being part of Audra Jennings PR Blogging tour. This had no impact on my review.