cover image Tainted


Brooke Morgan, . . Avon, $14.99 (429pp) ISBN 978-0-06-185337-1

The real-life murder case of British toddler Jamie Bulger helped inspire Morgan's excellent debut, an impeccably paced suspense novel set on Cape Cod. When 17-year-old Holly Barrett becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with 18-year-old Billy Madison, Billy, who comes from a privileged background, splits after learning the news. Five years later, Billy returns to Shoreham, Mass., eager to be a father, but Holly's not interested. Having endured the loss of her parents and not trusting Billy, she's content living on Birch Point with Katy, her five-year-old daughter; her granddad, Henry; and Henry's dog, Bones. After meeting a handsome Englishman, Jack Dane, Holly dives headfirst into a quickie marriage, despite signs Jack isn't who he says he is. Henry, who's initially pleased, begins noticing Jack acting inappropriately with Katy. Morgan, a U.S. ex-pat living in the U.K., successfully exploits the classic woman-in-jeopardy (plus child) theme. (Dec.)