What Waits in the Woods by Terri Parlato
Thriller | Mystery
When Esme’s career as a ballerina falls apart due to an injury, she has no choice but to return home. Home to a father who’s dying, a group of friends she hasn’t spoken to since high school, and a community with its share of hidden secrets and dark history. When one of her best friends is found murdered in her backyard, Esme wonders if her own past had something to do with it. Was this a case of mistaken identity?
What Waits in the Woods is a slow-burn mystery / police procedural. With its extremely short chapters (alternating in first-person between Esme and the detective, Rita) the story moves quickly and the writing style creates a very moody, atmospheric read.
Throughout the novel there are numerous red herrings and rabbit trails for the detective to follow. And while I enjoyed the mystery, it was really the characters that hit home for me in this book. What Waits in the Woods is more character-driven than a lot of other thrillers, which made for a slower pace, but allowed me to feel very invested in the protagonists. I particularly loved Esme’s character as a retired ballerina, and the aspect of returning to a hometown and reuniting with old friends and the re-emergence of past wounds.
Unfortunately, the ending missed the mark for me a little as there were some implausibilities that I didn’t find fully believable. However, there were a lot of suspects — each with their own secrets — and it was fun trying to untangle this mystery!
Overall this was a intriguing mystery with a good amount of suspense and intrigue.
Fans of moody, slow-burn mysteries with character-based plots.
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Copy of the book provided courtesy of the publisher, Kensington Books. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the book:
(From the publisher) In this riveting thriller from a new master of suspense, a young dancer’s homecoming is marred by a grisly discovery—and the realization that nothing in her past may be quite what she believed.
When Esmé Foster left the Boston suburbs to become a professional ballerina, the future shimmered with promise. Eleven years later, her career has been derailed by an injury, and Esme knows it’s time to come back to Graybridge to help her brother care for their ailing father. But her return coincides with an unthinkable crime. Kara Cunningham, one of Esme’s high school friends, is found dead in the woods behind the Fosters’ house.
Esmé is shocked and grieving, but also uneasy. In her dreams, she still sees the man who showed up at the scene of the car accident that killed her mother—and told Esmé he was going to kill her too. Family and friends insisted the figure was a product of Esmé’s imagination, that she was concussed after the crash. But she and Kara looked alike, sharing the same petite build, the same hair color. Could Kara’s murder have been a case of mistaken identity?
Detective Rita Myers is familiar with close-knit communities like Graybridge, where, beneath the friendliness, there are whispers and secrets. The town has seen other tragedies too, including the long-ago drowning of a young girl in a pond, deep in the woods. Even within the once-close circle of friends that included Kara and Esmé, Rita discerns a ripple of mistrust.
Day by day, Esmé discovers more about the place she left behind—and the friends and family she thought she knew. Soon, shining a light into the darkness to learn what really happened the night Kara died is the only way she can bring the nightmare to an end . . .