It had been a cool October evening. Molly had left Walmart with an armful of groceries. She popped open the trunk and threw the bags in, trying to ignore the little girl’s screams coming from the black minivan two cars over. She settled herself into the driver’s seat, and rolled down the window. The deafening screams continued. Molly backed out of her parking space and inched slowly past the van’s rear bumper. The child’s father frantically tried to settle the little girl into the van, the little girl’s arms and legs thrashed wildly. The frustrated father’s eyes shot in Molly’s direction.
“She didn’t get the dolly she wanted,” the man had said through gritted teeth.
Molly hadn’t realized she was staring. Embarrassed, she had driven away. It was three days later, when Molly had seen Amanda’s face on the front page of the newspaper, that Molly put her nightmares and the image of the man together, and realized that it had not been the little girl’s father she had seen, but Amanda’s abductor, her murderer.
from Chasing Amanda, by Melissa Foster
The guilt felt by Molly Tanner had nearly destroyed her family, as the trauma isolated her from husband Cole and young son Erik. This was amplified by disturbing dreams she had of Amanda and the abductor during the three days after the encounter—prescient dreams, something Molly would come to call “the Knowing.”
In an attempt to finally exorcise the demons haunting Molly, she and Cole move from Philadelphia to the rural town of Boyds, Maryland, while Erik goes off to college, and things return to normal for the Tanners. Until the Knowing returns, giving Molly a glimpse of another young girl in peril. She then learns that Tracy Porter has gone missing, and Molly is left wondering if, by saving Tracy, she can redeem herself for the death of Amanda.
Chasing Amanda, by Melissa Foster, is a paranormal mystery/thriller that does a fantastic job of keeping readers guessing all the way to the end. It’s also my Eclectic Reader’s Challenge 2012 choice for the mystery/crime genre.
As Molly—against the firm wishes of her husband—takes on the mantle of psychic detective, she begins to uncover events in the town’s past that only amplify the suspense. One method used to do this involves two very likely suspects, both of whom are harboring awful secrets. The effect is increased when, later, it seems as if there may be a conspiracy at the root of the mystery, involving at least three of Boyds’ residents, all entwined with sordid details of the town’s history.
The suspense is wound tighter by scenes of intense emotion. Primarily, these scenes either involve Molly and her attempts to interpret the physical clues and the psychic messages and tie them together into something that makes sense, or Tracy and her fearful encounters with her abductor.
All of this makes for a novel that is hard to put down.
In the end, things get a little twisted up, as Tracy’s abduction is weaved in with several of the mysteries presented by the town of Boyds and its residents. Although this makes for a wonderfully tangled mystery to solve, it seems as if some of the secondary plots end up lessening the impact of the main story line.
Chasing Amanda was published by Solstice Publishing, and the editing was fairly well done. There are areas where I believe splitting paragraphs or using different punctuation could have enhanced the story’s rhythm, there were no glaring errors in grammar or punctuation to distract from an enjoyable and thrilling reading experience.
Although I may have gone into more detail in describing the novel’s plot, Melissa Foster’s Chasing Amanda has far more depth than I could describe here without spoiling some of its surprises. I’m giving the book four stars out of five.