When a nine-year-old girl named Louisa mysteriously appears in the
middle of a house fire with no memory of how she got there or where she
came from, Jim and Amy Spencer agree to take her in. Wrestling with the
recent loss of their own child, Amy is hurt and angry while Jim is just
trying to make it through each day and hold their marriage together.
For Jim, Louisa is the daughter he always wanted, but Amy isn’t as
comfortable with her. The girl has a special gift, and soon that gift
will unknowingly push them all into contact with a serial killer who has
been terrorizing the small town of Virginia Mills. Only by uniting can
Jim and Amy save themselves and Louisa before it’s too late.
I have said this before, you cannot go wrong with a Dellosso novel. This
one reinforces that all over again. This to me is his best work.
While not as fast paced as others, the pace was enough to keep you coming back for more. His characterisation is as always very good. Dellosso has an uncanny knack of letting you into the character's minds, especially in this case the antagonist, Mitch Albright. Despite hating what he is doing, you feel his pain, understand what is causing this pain and his motive for murder and you sympathise with him. Does this put you on the side of this character? No, I find it encourages me to develop an attitude like Christ in that He hates the sin but loves the sinner! Dellosso has also portrayed this very nicely in the character of Clare Appleton who is fearless in not being intimidated by Mitch's violent, aggressive, and maleficent behaviour towards her and her husband Bob. Many times, Clare shows sympathy, understanding and even acceptance of Mitch as a person and looks past his behaviour and tries to appeal to his better side and get him to think about what he is doing and that it does not have to be like this. Does not Christ do the same to us? Gets us to think about our behaviour and give us an out: Himself! I loved this character. She is one of a kind.
I related to Amy and Jim Spencer. Amy in what she was experiencing in the aftermath of losing a child in utero and Jim in being the grieving father and to still support his also grieving wife. Having personally gone through this twice with my wife, I can say that Dellosso has captured enough of what this is like for a couple without it being too much to detract from the pace, plot, characterisation and overall thriller effect of the novel. I will always have a soft spot for Jim and Amy Spencer! Reading about Jim and Amy was in some respects myself and my wife in this novel!! Both Amy and Jim had to be fearless to confront their situation and learn to deal with this loss. Amy and Jim showed fearlessness also when Amy and Louisa were captured by Mitch and Jim in his attempts in protecting his family from Mitch and rescuing them from the burning house.
Dellosso shines in this novel with his portrayal of Louisa. Innocent, gentle, compassionate, mature beyond her age, great insight into the human spirit, a deep but simplistic faith in God (just like the Bible says our faith should be like: that of a child) but strong, fearless, and persistent throughout all she experienced. The sense of mystery surrounding Louisa's background, who she is, where she came from, her gift of healing and obedience, keeps you reading to find out all these answers. You cannot do anything else but sympathise and love her!
I cried at the end, not just because Dellosso tied up all the loose ends very nicely and appropriately, but because Jim and Amy found healing of their loss through Louisa, a renewed faith in God and finding out they were expecting another child. Again, I related well to this, as my wife and I had a similar ending: our ordeal twice in losing infants brought us closer together and to God and we were able to have 2 more children. For me this was beautiful ending.
This novel for all those reasons will have a special place in my heart. Out of all Dellosso's novels, this one is special to me.