Nothing bad ever happens in the perfect community of Oak Hill—on the surface, that is. Hiding beneath its perfect veneer are an assortment of dark secrets that are fueled by the gossip Oak Hill’s citizens cannot help but spread. When five-year-old Billy Barnes goes missing on his way home from school one day, the true nature of Oak Hill begins to emerge. Everyone has a reason to be a suspect, and everything they have been hiding becomes a motive. Over the course of several weeks, the investigation into Billy’s disappearance shatters the facade Oak Hill is desperate to maintain and brings reality to the doorstep of all those who have been hiding from it.
Built around the concept of suspense and mystery, this book grabs readers’ attention from the first moments. Each chapter is dated and labeled with the speaker, and these voices shift among several characters in the Oak Hill community. Much like in Big Little Lies, every character in this novel has a story, and snippets of clues are carefully revealed in each segment. Nobody is without fault, and readers will find themselves piecing together the things characters are not saying as everyone works to solve the missing person’s case and bring little Billy back home again.
Though this book is written for an adult audience, mature young adult readers who enjoy suspense fiction will easily connect with it, as well. Occasional swearing, family challenges, and sex are part of the narrative, and each one adds value to the story without feeling gratuitous. As in her other work, Altman does an excellent job setting the scene for readers from the first pages, and she likewise makes readers feel empathy for the characters despite, or perhaps because of, their fallibility. Gripping and suspenseful, this novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats as the mystery unfolds and the perfect town’s dirty laundry is put on display for all to see.
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