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Child's Play


Child's Play

Following near-death experiences in 2014’s ELECTIVE PROCEDURES, tension ratchets when Elle Harrison returns to her position as teacher of Philadelphia second graders. After setting up the classroom before school begins, she stops by the principal’s office. But Draconian Mrs. Marshall’s “empty eyes gazed at blankness, and her cheeks oozed crimson clots.” A gruesome way to start the school year.

Elle has listed her house for sale with Jerry, an egocentric realtor who makes romantic overtures. Returning home, Elle finds that the freshly vacuumed carpet has a single set of footprints. Did Jerry show the house to prospective buyers? When wine and flowers appear inside her locked abode, Elle vows to have the locks changed. Perhaps she had failed to secure the doors? After all, her dissociative disorder (disruptions of memory, awareness, identity or perception) causes her to “pull an Elle.” Too many things are causing confusion: Someone shoves Elle’s doppelgänger into traffic, another teacher is murdered, and “Sex and the City”-like gal pal Becky is attacked at Logan Elementary.

"What’s behind these horrors culminates in helter-skelter chaos.... And readers are left enchanted by another 'Elle-oquent' thriller."

These events unfold after former student Ty Evans, now age 21, obtains early prison release, having stabbed his father. Ty conveniently shows up at Elle’s home to thank her for being the only adult who trusted him. And invite her for coffee. “Finally a new man had come into my life. Never mind he was half my age and a convicted murderer.”

Elle had taught other Evans family members. A few years younger than Ty, Katie was a model student and now stops by daily to walk home with Seth, age seven, because their mother has alcohol issues. But Seth has had problems of late: drawings exhibiting rage, hiding in the cloakroom, bruised arms, and now skin cuts, though he’s too young to shave. Is the alcoholic mother to blame, or does Ty have another knife?

With Ty appearing at her front porch, and someone entering through locked doors, the impetus to sell the home where estranged husband Charlie had been murdered increases. “It was time to let go. To say goodbye to Charlie.” With all that’s going on in Elle’s life, she seldom thinks of her late husband, though his essence remains. The full impact of her life --- and his death --- is found in THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, the first in the series.

What’s behind these horrors culminates in helter-skelter chaos. Elle’s home becomes the center of a tragic universe, since she “attracted tragedy and death.” That combination is magnified manyfold as bodies pile up. And readers are left enchanted by another “Elle-oquent” thriller.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on January 6, 2017

Child's Play
by Merry Jones