Although the mystery may seem obvious from the beginning, the author’s sleight of hand will keep the reader guessing constantly. This is the first book I have read in a long time that literally kept me on the edge of my seat from page one even though it was uncomplicated. I loved the “double entendre” of the title. Was the main character having a nervous breakdown or was the book about a car that had been on a forested road during a terrible storm and suffered a breakdown, resulting in the loss of life? Was Cassandra (Cass) Anderson losing her memory as her mom had, from dementia, or was something else afoot? The reader will wonder and wander in different directions, testing out different theories and scenarios until the last page. The ending is somewhat of a surprise, although perhaps it should have been obvious; yet, it works!
One stormy night, in mid-July, while traveling through the wooded road her husband had begged her not to use, Cass came upon a car blocking the bumpy and unsafe flooded road. Swerving to avoid it, she attempted to look back to see if the person needed help. All she could see was the face of a woman who showed little emotion and whom she could not readily identify. Since the woman did not reach out for help in any way, and since she was afraid to get out in the violent weather, she drove on. The next day, she learns the woman was murdered, and it was someone she knew, someone she had recently met and liked very much. Ashamed of herself for not offering the woman help, he tells no one she saw her, and she grows consumed with guilt. She believes that if she had stopped and offered help, her new friend Jane Walters, might still be alive. She tells no one, not even her husband, that she saw her car on the road that fateful night, believing that she will be judged badly, and then ridiculed, or perhaps even suspected of being involved in the foul play.
Cass was only married a year to Matthew Anderson. She had kept other secrets from him, like the fact that her mom was diagnosed with early onset dementia in her forties, so when she grew more and more absent minded and forgetful, she wondered if she should have warned him before they married, that she might one day have the same disease. The only one who knew all of her secrets was her quasi sister and best friend, Rachel Baretto. Rachel’s mom had worked long hours, so she spent a great deal of time with Cass and her parents as she was growing up. She was thought of almost as a daughter. Cass was even afraid to confide her secret of the night of the murder to Rachel.
As the weeks and then months pass, with the murderer still at large, she becomes obsessed with her guilt and fear. She fantasizes that the killer knows who she is and is stalking her. Slowly, she seems to fall apart, losing her memory, becoming more and more afraid that she is in mortal danger. She begins receiving phone calls with no one on the other end. She believes it is the murderer taunting her. At the same time, she begins to forget how to operate the everyday appliances she always used, like the coffee pot and the washing machine. She forgets to take her purse with her or to keep appointments she has made. A doctor prescribes medication to alleviate her stress, and she begins to sleep much of the time. She neglects to prepare the lesson plans due for her teaching position, and she rarely leaves the cottage. She seems to be descending into the same dementia that her mom had suffered from and she is distraught. Her misery, coupled with her fear, is driving her slowly mad. Although Matthew at first seems to be offering support, after weeks pass, he seems to be losing patience with her failures and her fears.
The reader will easily follow the events that are presented carefully and logically. The twists and turns, the misdirection and the character setups work to hold the readers at bay, so that they are never sure which way the book will end, never sure what the mystery is exactly; they are always wondering who is the murderer, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? Just what is the connection to Cass’s downward spiral and what is not, just what is real and what is fantasy? Is it what seems obvious or is it something else?
Is Cass suffering, as her mother did, from early onset dementia or is there is a diabolical plan afoot to make her think so? Is it related to the murder of her friend Jane Walters or are both issues totally unrelated? Is she being stalked by the murderer? Is it something else entirely that is driving her mad? Some answers may seem obvious to the reader, at times, but the reader will never be sure until the very end, about exactly what occurred and why. This author is skillful at sending out clues leading in many directions at once, essentially misdirecting the reader at every opportunity. It is a great read that will keep you guessing and wanting more.