cover image Hot Springs Drive

Hot Springs Drive

Lindsay Hunter. Grove/Gay, $27 (228p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6145-1

Hunter (Eat Only When You’re Hungry) spins a thrilling and addictive story of a murderer, his troubled mother, and his next-door victim. Theresa Linden, a 40-something suburban mother, is bludgeoned to death in her garage. The culprit is identified quickly as her 14-year-old neighbor Douglas Stinson. As the fractured and nonlinear novel unfolds, Hunter reveals how Douglas was egged on by his mother, Jackie Newsome, who was Theresa’s best friend. The women met on the maternity ward after they gave birth, and their bond grew over the years as they coped with the difficulties of motherhood. Jackie’s family life is one of “pure survival”; assisted only by her benevolent but unsophisticated husband, she struggles to manage four rambunctious sons, including malevolent Douglas, her oldest and her “protector.” Life at the Linden house is scarcely more inspiring, as Theresa’s sex life with her husband, Adam, has evaporated. A few years before the murder, Jackie joins a weight loss program, where the leader encourages her to “give [hunger] a new name.” She picks “desire” and winds up seducing Adam. Hunter gradually doles out the circumstances behind Theresa’s murder, showing how the affair sets in motion a series of events that prompt Jackie to make Douglas feel like he must protect their family. In chapters told from various characters’ points of view, Hunter expertly explores the psychology behind their actions, showing for instance how Jackie’s desire and need for its reciprocation becomes destructive. It’s a remarkable character portrayal, earning the reader’s sympathy even while establishing Jackie’s culpability for Theresa’s murder. Hunter’s masterwork hits all the right notes. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Nov.)