Robyn Harding takes this author, already known for her women's fiction, into crime from a new angle: What happens to the people who survive a terrible assault and who've had a role in it -- but aren't kept in prison forever? Could one of them turn up in your life, like the dark side of a WITSEC twist?
It's easy to sympathize with Frances Metcalfe. Other than her rock-solid marriage, her life is loaded with problems: a son with emotional issues who's having trouble surfing the nasty currents of an upscale private school, her own inability to look like a mom at that kind of school should, and feeling the sting of cliques -- not just for herself but for her much-loved and rather naive son.
So it looks like an amazing gift in Frances's life when gorgeous, wealthy, and, let's face it, sexy Kate Randolph steps forward to defend her, and her son. Not only is Kate willing to stand up for them, she's happy to be a real friend for Frances, the kind who wants to go out for lunch, have a couples night with a kids' sleepover, and more.
But as Harding unfolds the story of the two women and their families, she also provides peeks into a long-ago crime, one that featured abuse and murder, and we're reading the words of someone not quite identified, who's linked to that crime. What's the connection to Kate and Frances? As it all unfolds, the tension ramps high, providing an intense page-turner.
My lone quibble with HER PRETTY FACE is the person who pays the highest price as the plot spirals -- Harding's choice detracts from the painful darkness that a book like this one usually evokes. Then again, for many readers, that will be a plus: not having to cover your eyes or double check that the door is locked, or weep for someone's irreversible damage. But it comes close ... and it's not until the final twists that any assurance can come from this tangle of secrets and suspense.
From Scout Press, a Simon & Schuster imprint. Release date July 10.
PS: Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.