I don’t think I put it down for more than five minutes in the day it took me to finish it. It gripped me from the first page and wouldn’t let me go. I spent the entire time figuring out who the killer was, and I was wrong! I am never wrong. This book was so clever.
Norah Silverton is the rare “lucky one” who has escaped a serial killer, though her best friend August was not so lucky. While August was killed quickly, Norah convinced the killer that she was attracted to him. Nicknamed “Hansel” for his signature lead to those he has murdered, lets her go with her promises to come back to him. He tells her he will wait for her. In her downward spiral after the escape, she has very little support with her father telling her to “get over it” and the belligerent police officer telling Norah she could be Hansel. She leaves town to start a new life in Los Angeles.
Ten years later, Norah gets word her estranged father has died, and she returns to Kansas City for the first time since she left all those years ago. In her first few hours there, she discovers the body of her close friend Esme, with many similar traits to the murder of her best friend, August, 10 years ago. Is Hansel back? Ironically, the same skeptic cop Norah met 10 years ago is also handling the murder of Esme, and once again doubts Norah’s story. At the same time, an author she had an affair with many months ago has published a book with things she told in confidence. She believes the book may have alerted Hansel, and he is coming for her. When she runs into Owen, August’s old boyfriend, she falls deeply for him. Can she save herself and her friends before they find the next person dead? And who is Hansel? He seems to know her, but she doesn’t know if it is someone close to her or pretending to be someone close to her. This book had me on my toes 100% of the time and I was so sure I knew the answer that I literally gasped at the last pages. I didn’t see that ending coming at all! Payne is the queen of gaslighting her readers. I remember this from her first book. Such a strongly written, suspenseful book. I absolutely loved it.
In the author’s afterword, she says a woman who escaped a serial killer similarly that Norah did inspired her. Payne also did an amazing job with red herrings described as “bread crumbs”. She had me suspecting everyone. There was just so much happening. One of the best thrillers I have read all year.