By Harlan Coben
Dutton. 351 pp. $27.95
Six years after losing his one true love to another man, Jake Fisher is still haunted by memories and questions. Was it really just a whirlwind summer romance? A brief escape from the real world? Jake hardly believes that, though they had each been on retreat — literally so: Jake, on his way up the professorial ladder, finishing his political science dissertation at a writer’s retreat in Vermont, then meeting Natalie, a painter at the Creative Recharge Colony down the road. But when she suddenly married an old boyfriend, Jake had agreed to her request to “leave us alone.” And no matter what, he’s a man who sticks by his principles . . . at least until he hears that Natalie’s husband has died. With the “us” no longer there, Jake can reach out to her again, right?
That wedding in the novel’s opening is followed quickly by a funeral, where Jake hopes to reconnect with the freshly widowed Natalie. The only problem: The woman in the big black hat isn’t Natalie, and the dead man’s kids are too old to have been the offspring of a second marriage. More complications arise: When Jake calls Natalie’s sister, she doesn’t know him. On a quick trip back to Vermont, none of those familiar faces remember him. And the Creative Recharge isn’t there — never has been, according to everyone he meets.