Joyce Maynard’s novel, After Her, is so much more than just another mystery thriller. Within the pages, the reader is entangled in an intricate tale of family secrets, coming of age, rebellion, teenage dreams, and over everything is the menacing presence of an unknown serial killer.
After Her is the story of Rachel and Patty growing up in Marin County, north of San Francisco. The story is told from Rachel’s point of view looking back thirty years to hers and her sister’s lives during the time of the Sunset Strangler. Rachel and Patty enter the story as two young teens discussing boys, Patty’s desire to play women’s professional basketball, and their hopes, all while traipsing over the mountain behind their home looking for excitement to enter their lives. Until they find it with dangerous, life changing consequences through an encounter with a man simply known at the Sunset Strangler, a serial killer prowling the mountains of Marin County to the beat of “My Sharona”.
Rachel has visions and she claims to witness via her hallucinations the crimes of the Sunset Strangler. She is repulsed and, at the same time, riveted by her dreams of these atrocious murders. Rachel’s and Patty’s father, Detective Tony Torricelli is lead investigator of the Sunset Strangler case, and it is their fateful decision to help their father that may have led to his untimely downfall and release as detective on the case. It takes Rachel thirty years of moving away before she looks back to her time on the mountain at the time of the Strangler case with clearer, investigative eyes.
After Her was a difficult book to set down. Maynard’s writing style is fluid and her characters compelling. The story comes to us from Rachel’s memories, yet Maynard seamlessly transitions from the reflections of an adult Rachel to the teenager’s mind giving the reader a keen insight into Rachel’s fourteen year old thoughts. With each turn of the page, I was led deeper into the labyrinth of Rachel’s tale. I kept reading wanting to know what was happening around the next bend of the story.
Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.