When Paul Adams gets the call from hospice, he knows he must return to the village where he grew up. His mother had fallen and it turns out, was about to die from the cancer she had hidden from him. Paul had not been home for twenty-five years, ever since he went off to university. That's a long time but Paul had a good reason for avoiding his home. It had been the scene of a horrific event that threatened to affect his entire life.
Paul had one good friend in school, Jeremy. Jeremy was the kind of boy who is often bullied, shy, slight, unsure of himself and Paul tried to protect him when he could. Then the two boys were drawn into the orbit of two other outsiders, Billy Roberts and Charlie Crabtree. At first Paul is pleased to have more friends but soon Charlie makes him uneasy. Charlie is obsessed with the idea of lucid dreaming and believes the four of them can dream events that will then come true in reality. Paul is uncomfortable with the idea and with the way Charlie becomes more and more controlling. When he starts to talk about using the dreams to touch base with a man with bloody hands, Paul leaves the group and is glad to get away.
But Charlie is not done. Soon afterward, he and Billy commit a shocking murder. Billy is caught right afterwards but Charlie is not. In fact, despite all the searching, he is never found and disappears forever. Yet maybe not quite. Over the years, Charlie becomes a legend in certain Internet chatrooms and a cult grows up around him. Several times over the intervening years, murders that are exact copies of Charlie's occur.
Paul has spent his life trying to forget that time. But now that he is back, the thoughts and memories come back with him. Suddenly, he is being stalked and threatened at night in his mother's house. A police detective, Amanda, who is investigating the most recent murder seems to believe that Paul is the key to finding out what happened all those years ago and why it has reverberated down through the years. As the body count rises, Paul is forced to face his childhood memories and his part in what occurred.
This is the second novel of the writer Alex North and I thought it was an even stronger effort that the first, The Whisper Man. There is a large twist that occurs that I didn't see coming at all. Paul is a stunted individual who has not been able to move past his childhood memories yet now perhaps he has a chance to put everything behind him if he can find the courage to face his past. This book is recommended for mystery readers.