“Cruickshank sets this multi-generational thriller in a small Oregon town where the Westbrooke family has long wielded power over its neighbors. Despite his cold and tyrannical father’s rep as a ruthless businessman, Thomas Westbrooke, single and focused on his career in the family firm, is lucky to call the solidly middle-class John McCloud his best friend. One day, John, a happy father and husband, shows Thomas an old newspaper clipping that features an image of their grandfathers together. Unbeknownst to John, the unearthing of that connection will destroy everything that he holds dear. Thomas isn’t the steadfast friend everyone thinks he is. Lies will be exposed, families will be broken, and people will die in the name of protecting the Westbrooke fortune.
After being tragically widowed, Skye, John’s wife, finds comfort in the arms of the attentive Thomas, though as the years pass Thomas becomes secretive, controlling and short-tempered, culminating in a shocking burst of domestic violence. Readers know from the beginning that Thomas is psychologically troubled, and what John’s fate will be, which diminishes suspense and surprise. The twists that do come are welcome: Thomas believes that mysterious “assets” are in danger, as Cruickshank drops hints about a Conquistador’s journal and underground vaults, and a number of relationships eventually are revealed to be quite different than what readers expect.
The story is good and fast-moving, with welcome moral weight offsetting some dark material. The swings of sanity and madness in Thomas are scary, and Cruickshank’s portrait of the insulating—and possibly deadening—effects of wealth and power often chill, and not just when Thomas performs dark acts. “Love, integrity, and goodness are relative qualities for people like me,” he declares to a priest, seeming truly to believe it. Cruickshank’s decade-spanning portrait is damning, inviting readers not to wonder whodunnit but just how much worse he’ll still do—and whether a new generation can set things right.”
Takeaway: Generation-spanning thriller of murder, power, and a wealthy family’s secrets.
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