cover image A Flicker in the Dark

A Flicker in the Dark

Stacy Willingham. Minotaur, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-80382-5

At 12, Chloe Davis—the protagonist of Willingham’s devastating debut—watched in horror as her father pleaded guilty to murdering six teenage girls from Breaux Bridge, La., and agreed to serve six consecutive life sentences in order to avoid the death penalty. Shortly thereafter, her mother attempted suicide, and her gregarious older brother retreated inside himself. Now, Chloe is a 32-year-old self-medicating Baton Rouge psychologist, whose family history is unknown to nearly everyone but Daniel Briggs, the pharmaceutical salesperson to whom she’s now engaged following a whirlwind romance. Chloe is already apprehensive regarding the impending 20th anniversary of her father’s crime spree, so when a 15-year-old girl disappears from Chloe’s neighborhood, she tries not to panic. A few days later, however, another 15-year-old girl vanishes after leaving Chloe’s office, forcing Chloe to question whether a copycat killer has found her, or her paranoid imagination is seeing patterns where none exist. Willingham skillfully intercuts Chloe’s anxious first-person narration in the present with flashbacks to her childhood, ratcheting up the tension. Atmospheric prose and abundant red herrings amplify the tale’s intensity. Willingham is a writer to watch. Agent: Dan Conaway, Writers House. (Jan.)