I’ve been a big Gerri Hill fan for a very long time now, but unlike most reviewers I know, I like her romance novels best. At Seventeen is one of my all-time favourites. I don’t remember when or why I stopped reading her thrillers, whether that happened when I took a break from anything violent (I mentioned that here a little) or if it was before. I don’t remember if the style was the problem – I can’t imagine how that would be since I love it in romance – or if they were too gruesome for me.
Either way, Gillette Park is my first Hill thriller in many many years. And I loved it. I had to shut my mind at times against what the victims went through, but once I had managed to distance myself from that part, it allowed me to enjoy everything else.
For the last twenty-three years, children have been disappearing from the small town – now small city – of Gillette Park. Between May and October every year, at least two kids, sometimes as many as five. Most are found dead a few days later, a couple never showed up.
Mason Cooper was ten when the first victim, one of her school friends, was killed. That same year, Mason’s father left. Mason’s mother turned to alcohol and the young girl found a family at her uncle Alan’s. Today Alan is the Sheriff of Gillette Park, and both Mason (after a few years in Los Angeles) and her cousin Brady are deputies. This year, the chief of police and the FBI have convinced Sheriff Cooper to bring a psychic in. And the task of keeping an eye on her falls to Mason.
The mystery itself is gripping, the paranormal elements simply make sense. As much as Mason tries to not believe at first, they’re undeniable. Gerri Hill ties up all the loose ends and the few questions I have been left with have more to do with human nature than with the plot she conceived.
If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I’m very character-driven. Which is probably why I enjoy romance novels so much, I love when an author makes me care about their characters, their well-being, their happiness. Mason and Grace, and to a lesser extent little Faith, are an enormous part of why I enjoyed this book so much.
Mason is both no-nonsense and open-minded. She’s thorough and considerate. Despite her parents’ desertions, she never lacked love as a child but every family has its secrets. Grace’s experience of life is very different. Almost as soon as she became aware of her “gift”, she learnt to hide it. From her own family at first, lest they thought her crazy. Later from would-be friends or lovers. Anytime she tried to let anyone close (with one very notable exception), it backfired and she’s now convinced she’ll never be seen as anything other than a freak.
One of the things I enjoyed the most is the way Grace and Mason interact and how that changes as they learn to see beyond each other’s façade. That Mason isn’t as laidback and together as she seems, and how that might explain why she’s not completely closed to the idea of… something other than reality as she knows it. That Grace is not only able to talk to dead people but is also witty and funny. How natural they feel together, be it fate or just life doing its job.
I’m not shying away from Hill’s thrillers anymore after this excellent one. I might even go back in time and see what I’ve missed.