Tali Carrington and June Danforth are stars in the making. Students at the prestigious Performing Arts High School in Boston, they often compete for the lead roles in productions. The two manage a challenging academic schedule while also spending long hours rehearsing for the next play or musical.
One chilly fall evening after staying late for an audition, the two girls leave the school together and never make it home. Two days later, Tali is found, bleeding and bruised near the ocean’s edge, while June, feet away, is dead. Out of town for a meeting, Nell, Tali’s mother, blames Tali’s father, Zeke, a gambling addict who failed to notice that his daughter hadn’t come home. While Nell is relieved Tali’s alive, she grieves for June’s father, Peter, a widower. The situation is made more complicated because Nell and Peter had begun an affair after Peter’s wife, Mei, died.
Out-of-focus surveillance video shows Tali and June leaving school, but little else. Did they meet someone they knew or were they abducted by a stranger? Tali, traumatized by the ordeal can’t remember much about what happened. The detective assigned to the case, Fritz Jameson, treads carefully when questioning Tali and focuses most of his attention on the school. There were rumors that Greg Normand, who directs the productions, was having an affair with one of the students. Tali? June? Did he lure them away following the auditions? After Greg casts Tali as the lead in Spring Awakening, a musical about troubled adolescents, Nell worries that Tali is too fragile to handle the role. Surprisingly, the teen rises to the occasion, impressing Fritz when she belts out a song during a rehearsal.
Also a suspect on Fritz’s list- Sam Wallace, another student actor whose looks surpass his talents. While Tali says he and June were dating, Sam’s protective mother, Ana, denies that possibility and does everything she can to divert attention from her son.
Fritz has a backstory of his own. A tragedy in his past involving his brother, Connor, caused him to abandon a career as a musician (he won admittance to Julliard) and instead become a cop. These days he is a regular at The Beehive, a local jazz club where he can play for the only audience that counts – himself. That is until Cynthia Rawlins, a therapist assigned to Tali, takes an interest in the detective. Now single after her husband, Noah, left, Cyn, is cutting back her practice, but keeping Tali because she feels the drawn to the teen.
Lynne Reeves (Photo Credit Ian Dickerman)
Lynne Reeves Griffin, a nationally recognized expert on family life, is the author of the nonfiction parenting guide, Negotiation Generation. Writing novels as Lynne Reeves, she brings her considerable understanding of family dynamics into the plot of this intriguing mystery. Her characters, while flawed, are credible. We recognize their challenges and conflicts. How does a parent protect a child without turning into a helicopter? The stakes are higher when the teens involved are talented, pursuing demanding and ego-draining careers as actors.
Reeves’ expertise as a therapist shines through in the exchanges between Cyn and Tali. The dialogue could be a guide for how to conduct a session without making it seem intrusive. Cyn does more listening than talking and the exercises she suggests for Tali – tackling an activity together, for example – establish trust without that being the obvious goal.
The Dangers of an Ordinary Night succeeds on multiple levels. A riveting read.
The Dangers of an Ordinary Night
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