Eleanor Blackwood is a young woman struggling with a traumatic past. On the 18th anniversary of her own mother’s murder, an event witnessed by six-year-old Ellie, she decides to challenge her gremlins by taking a run through the very woods that were the site of her mother’s death. She is not prepared for what she finds on her run: a naked dead woman in the woods, with the number 3 written on her forehead with black marker. She can barely believe her own eyes. In a panic, she runs from the scene, scraping herself badly during the hectic one through the nettle-filled woodland trail.
It gets worse. When Eleanor reports her experience, she is received skeptically by the police, who nevertheless search for the body in the woods, and fail to find one. At that point, reactions vary: the police, knowing her history, think she is either suffering hallucinations or an overactive imagination. Her father is angry, accusing her of attention-seeking behavior. Her employers at the local school think she should take a leave from teaching. Even Eleanor begins to doubt what she has seen, or not seen. She has been through years of therapy, and indeed is currently seeing a hypnotherapist, Dr. Quick.
This is a riveting first-person story that offers flashback scenes interspersed with current events. We, the reader, aren’t sure about Eleanor’s mental health, either. But when events become even more complex, we increasingly feel there is a malevolent force behind what we are seeing through Eleanor’s eyes, and like her, we are hard pressed to recognize who is friend and who is foe. I found it hard to put this book down, and read long chunks at a time. The author has done a masterful job of telling a difficult tale.
My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for making an advance copy available for me to read and review.