The plot has become a familiar one in everything from TV shows and films to novels and memoirs. The hero or heroine is a master or mistress of the universe with a life that others only dream about. Then tragedy strikes and things go south. Rich man is now poor man without two nickels to rub together. Redemption follows and the new life is even better than the previous one. So predictable, so boring.
Fortunately, Adam Mitzner gives us something totally different in his new thriller, The Girl from Home. Yes, our protagonist, Jonathan Caine loses everything, but it’s the route he takes to redemption that makes the story so absorbing. Jonathan worked hard to acquire the trappings of wealth, including a drop-dead Manhattan apartment, a gorgeous younger wife, a Bentley, and summers in the Hamptons. His job managing a hedge fund makes all those perks possible. Yet to meet the expectations of his investors, Jonathan often has to do some Ponzi-like juggling. The house of cards finally collapses, and Jonathan is not only out of a job, but being investigated by the SEC.
He retreats to his childhood home upstate, unpacking his suitcase in his old bedroom which still boasts a lighting fixture that resembles a basketball hoop. Jonathan’s mother died years ago and his father, William, suffers from dementia and is in a nursing home. Jonathan’s sister, who lives in the midwest, has always assumed responsibility for their father, even though Jonathan lived closer. Now with no where else to go, Jonathan becomes his father’s caretaker, an experience that begins on an awkward note but eventually brings the two closer together.
Jonathan uses his father’s condition to explain why he has returned to his hometown. Word about his financial disgrace has yet to be publicized, so he’s able to keep up the facade when he shows up to his high school reunion in his Bentley. There he meets Jackie Williams, East Carlisle High School’s homecoming queen who went on to marry Rick, the captain of the football team. Jackie was out of Jonathan’s league in high school, but now the two are drawn together. Jackie is being abused by Rick and when Jonathan invites her to lunch, she accepts. An affair quickly follows and soon the two are trying to figure out how they can be together permanently. Both Jackie and Jonathan think about killing Rick. But would either one of them actually commit murder?
The characters are so well drawn that we feel like we know them. Jonathan’s transformation from I want what I want to appreciating what he has unfolds slowly and never feels forced. We also understand Jackie’s situation as a victim of domestic abuse. Getting away from the abuser is never easy and often results in the victim being hurt or even killed. No wonder that killing Rick seems like the only way Jonathan and Jackie will ever be together. Mitzer keeps the suspense growing until the very surprising and satisfying end.