Jaime Lynn Hendricks
reviewed by Barbara Saffer
Finding Tessa is narrated in the alternating voices of Jace Montgomery and Tessa Smyth, a newlywed couple living near the Jersey shore. Jace is a banker and Tessa is an interior decorator, and their marriage occurred so fast that they haven’t even met each other’s families.
The story opens with Jace, who’s worried about his wife.
Jace is the branch manager of New Jersey’s Valley Lake Bank, and is trying to get financing for a new shopping center. Thus Jace and his colleague Rosita wined and dined two representatives from Vistabuild, hoping to win their favor. Jace got home late from the business dinner, and discovered that his wife Tessa was missing. There’s a broken window in the kitchen, blood and hair on the ground outside, and Tessa’s purse and phone are in the house.
Jace calls the authorities, and Detective Solomon and a forensics team are soon on the scene. Solomon asks if anyone would want to hurt Tessa, and Jace explains that his wife had violent men in her past, but he doesn’t know any of their names. In fact, the banker seems to know very little about his spouse, other than that she was raised in abusive foster homes and may have four siblings. In fact Jace isn’t even sure if Smyth is Tessa’s maiden name or her ex-husband’s last name. When Solomon asks the banker if there were any problems in his and Tessa’s marriage, Jace lies and says no.
The detective concludes that Tessa knew the person responsible for her disappearance, because the couple’s dog Candy would have attacked an intruder. In fact, it’s pretty clear that Solomon is suspicious of Jace, because the husband is always the first suspect.
Switch to Tessa, and we learn she’s on the run.
Tessa has nine thousand dollars in cash that she saved up, and is relieved she has the resources to get away. In the past, every time Tessa left an ex she’d jump right into another relationship, because she had no money and nowhere to go. This time, Tessa catches a bus to a distant city, checks into a cheap motel, and proceeds to get the fake ID she needs to get on with her life. Tessa is still very apprehensive, however, because she knows her ex-husband will kill her if he finds her.
Still, Tessa is hopeful things will work out this time because she has a plan. With the help of a friend who’ll plant the appropriate clues, Tessa hopes to get her ex-husband imprisoned for murdering her.
Shift back to Jace, and he’s in trouble.
A neighbor tells the police that Tessa was very upset because Jace came home with a gun. Jace denies this, but the police don’t believe him. Soon afterwards, a woman’s maimed body is found; another woman goes missing; and evidence is found in the banker’s house. The press goes crazy, and Jace is dubbed Valley Lake’s notorious murderer. Jace gets two lawyers to help him: his friend Evan Soderberg and defense attorney Robert Brown. Soderberg manage to raise bail, but Jace is still confined to his house with an ankle bracelet.
Switch to Tessa, and it seems old habits die hard.
Tessa starts settling into her new home, and goes to a wine bar for a meal. There Tessa flirts with a bartender named Damon, who’s interested in the new lady in town. Though Tessa knows better, she makes a date with Damon, hoping she’ll have better luck this time. The date goes well…..until it doesn’t.
To reveal more would be a spoiler, except to say that things aren’t necessarily what they seem.
This is a suspenseful thriller that will keep you guessing from beginning to end.
Thanks to Netgalley, Jaime Lynn Hendricks, and Penzler Publishers for a copy of the book.