The summer before she leaves for college, Maya meets an older man, Frank, at the library. She’s immediately attracted to him. Not only is he good looking with a killer smile, but he seems to see into her soul, connecting with her in ways she never thought possible. He tells her about a cabin in the woods that he’s been building and wants her to be the first one to see it. But on the day they plan to go, Maya’s best friend, Aubrey shows up in a killer red dress. Although Frank often tells Maya that she’s beautiful, he doesn’t initiate any physical contact. So when Maya sees his reaction to Aubrey, she’s jealous and becomes more intent than ever on hanging on to Frank.
When Maya confronts Aubrey, she’s confused by her friend’s reaction. Rather than being attracted to Frank, Aubrey finds him weird and warns Maya to stay away from him. What Aubrey says confirms Maya’s own concerns about Frank. Both women have experienced gaps in their memory when with Frank. After Maya tells Frank she doesn’t want to see him, he shows up at her house. Maya leaves Aubrey outside with Frank and goes inside to call the police. While she’s gone, Aubrey collapses and hits her head. By the time Maya’s mother, Brenda shows up, Aubrey is dead. Because Frank never touched Aubrey, he’s never charged with her death, but Maya knows he’s responsible.
Seven years later, Maya is living in Boston with her boyfriend, Dan. She’s never told him about Frank, attempting to cope with her depression and anxiety with Klonopin and alcohol. But when she sees a YouTube video of another women dying in front of Frank, she knows she needs to go back home and confront the past. Doing so, however, means finding that house in the forest where her own relationship with Frank reached a turning point.
Maya wasn’t drinking when she experienced memory lapses while with Frank. Now, however, to discover what happened to her, Maya must stop drinking. She also goes back to her roots, using a book written by her now deceased Guatemalan father for clues. The closer Maya gets to sobriety, the clearer she begins to see what Frank has done to her as well as several other women. But will anyone believe her?
Ana Reyes has found a new twist on the woman in peril theme. Because Frank doesn’t look like a monster, he becomes that much more dangerous. Apparently the idea for this book came to Reyes while she was writing her MFA thesis. Whether what she sketches out could actually happen, may lead the reader to do further research.
The House in the Pines