It's 1988, and 25-year-old Madeline Dare is married to a man whose job keeps him on the road. They live in Syracuse, where she writes for a local newspaper. Madeline's father-in-law shows her dog tags that he found in a cornfield several years ago. Not only do they belong to Madeline's cousin, they were discovered at a site where two young women were murdered in 1969. Since the murders were never solved, Madeline takes on the case and tries to clear her cousin of any culpability.

The web of lies and deceit that she uncovers is intricately woven into the explosive story. Most disturbing is the ritualistic nature of the crime. The women's throats were slit, and their heads were adorned with wreaths fashioned from roses. Madeline's initial desire to clear her cousin's name becomes overridden by her search for the truth.

This complex mystery is enhanced by Madeline's discovery of various possible killers and also by revelations of her own difficult past and dysfunctional family relationships. Read's top-rate debut is a chilling, realistic thriller brimming with intrigue. (May, 305 pp., $22.95)
Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick