She had the perfect life as a suburban wife and mother. But when her husband is slain in brutal fashion – the killer still loose – she must protect herself and her two children. Moving to a small midwestern town, she trains like a Navy Seal – transforming her slim body into a fighting machine, becoming a skilled shooter, and equipping their home with a safe room, computer technology, and surveillance equipment. The one thing she doesn’t anticipate – getting involved in a local murder investigation that places her and her family in danger.
Jason Pinter’s Hide Away takes the damsel in distress theme and turns it on its head. Rachel (the name she took after the tragedy), is no one’s victim. She’s smart, resourceful, persistent, and a physical force. When a man accosts her in a dark alley, she warns him, “Don’t do this. You’ll regret it.” He laughs and ends up with broken bones, a smashed face, and a severed Achilles tendon.
Despite the brave face Rachel presents to the world, uprooting her children (especially her now 13 year-old son who saw his father’s bloody remains), finding a job, and making friends has not been easy. Probably why she has a soft spot for Constance Wright, the former mayor of Ashby, Illinois, who was one of the first people to welcome her to the town. When Wright is found splattered on the ice underneath the Albertson Bridge, the police are quick to rule the death a suicide. And there are facts to support that finding. The Wright family, once a wealthy and prominent one in Ashby, was severely damaged by a scandal and Constance, who was implicated, was forced to resign as mayor. Yet, watching videos on TV, Rachel knows that Constance was murdered. Disguising her voice, she calls the lead investigator, Detective John Serrano, explaining why Constance did not jump but was pushed. The police have no choice but to rule the death a homicide and begin an investigation.
Rachel is not content to stand on the sidelines. When Serrano and his partner, Detective Leslie Tally, visit Constance’s former husband, Nicholas Drummond, Rachel shows up and identifies herself as a forensic consultant helping the Ashby police department. Not wanting to raise suspicions, Serrano and Tally allow Rachel to sit in on the questioning of Drummond and his new wife, Isabelle Robles. Once inside, Rachel excuses herself to use the bathroom and, snooping in closets, comes up with evidence that could produce a motive for the killing.
While Serrano is more tolerant of Rachel’s intervention, Tally wonders why this mother of two is so intent on investigating Wright’s death that she is placing herself and her children in danger. Those dangers become real when Rachel’s home does under attack. While her two children retreat to the safe room, Rachel picks up her Mossberg 500 and prepares for battle. She manages to kill the intruder, but when he’s identified, she realizes inserting herself into the Wright investigation has stirred up a hornet’s nest.
Pinter slowly fills in information about Rachel’s background – why her husband was killed and how she ended up in Ashby with a new identity. Serrano is drawn to Rachel, tragedies in their past a big factor, but trust doesn’t come easily for a woman who has been on the defensive for so long. In the end she has to place her trust in someone, but if she chooses poorly, she may die.
Pinter says that a talk with his wife after the birth of their daughter inspired Hide Away. Wanting to keep loved ones safe is a universal theme and Pinter’s mystery, besides being a terrific read, is sure to hit that chord with many readers.
Author photo by Jason Rhee
Top photo: Bigstock