Twelve years ago, a young mother named Melisandre Dawes locked her infant daughter in the car on a hot day. The baby’s death led to charges, but after a mistrial and then a retrial with a judge, the mother was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
After years of not seeing her older two daughters, Alanna and Ruby, now 17 and 15, Melisandre is seeking a reunion, facilitated by a filmed documentary that will capture the moment, along with her version of the story. Her story of the severe postpartum psychosis that led to the tragedy.
Harmony Burns, a young film maker, has set the process in motion.
Tess Monaghan has been hired by Melisandre’s attorney, Tyner Gray, to be in charge of security before and during filming. But nowadays, Tess is juggling work and the rearing of her three-year-old daughter Carla Scout, whom she co-parents with her partner Crow. Her insecurities about how she is managing it all add depth to the story.
But before the reunion can take place, the girls change their minds about the meeting, and suddenly other strange events happen, such as the arrival of a series of threatening notes. Both Tess and Melisandre are on the receiving end. The notes seem innocuous at first, but gradually reveal that someone is stalking them, someone who knows way too much about them.
Suddenly everything changes, as one after another near-tragedy followed by a death lead to a whole other kind of investigation for Tess. Who is the stalker, and what is behind it all? Why are Alanna and Ruby seemingly keeping secrets from the past? Who has leaked the news of the notes to the press?
Multiple narrators tell the story, set in Baltimore, and as we see it all unfold, we learn more about the characters and their motives. Melisandre is an unlikable, entitled woman whose wealth and privilege set her apart from most people in her orbit. She hires and fires willy-nilly, and expects others to jump to her every command.
Alanna is a disturbed young woman showing the effects of life’s traumas, and the secrets she keeps are dangerous ones.
Ruby is an eavesdropper who learns much of what is going on in this manner. What she does with some of her secrets brings the story to a crucial point.
Stephen Dawes, the ex-husband, has a new wife, Felicia, and a new baby, Joey. He is very controlling and secretive as well.
And almost behind the scenes in Hush Hush: A Tess Monaghan Novel, Aunt Kitty adds her own special voice.
As the story moves along at a comfortable pace, the suspense ratchets up unexpectedly, followed by a seamless, yet stunning reveal. And then comes a feel-good scenario that left me smiling. 5.0 stars.