Title: The Halo Effect
Author: Anne D. LeClaire
Themes: Grief, art, secrets, religion
Setting: Modern small town Massachusetts
Will Light’s daughter disappeared after school. Days later, her body turned up in the woods. She’d been murdered. The police investigated, but nothing turned up and the case went cold.
Now Will is overwhelmed with grief and the loss of his precious daughter. His wife Sophie has moved out, tired of dealing with his drinking and his anger. She’s channeling her sorrow into advocacy for children in general, becoming a voice for murdered children. But Will is too angry and bitter to move on.
The local church wants Will to paint a piece for the new building, but Will has no interest in the saints. What good are they when Lucy is dead? (Except that you know he changes his mind because it’s in the book description.) Instead he buys a gun and goes prowling every night, looking for his daughter’s killer in the faces he sees.
I liked this book. I’ve dealt with grief myself, and I know something about the anger and the self-destructive behavior it can provoke. So I was able to sympathize with Will and his wife. I really wanted him to find some peace with his situation, but that’s not something you can rush.
The story also follows Lucy’s best friend Rain and the local priest Father Gervase, both of whom are dealing with their own private sorrows. I really liked Rain, who reminded me of my own kids when they were teenagers.
The author does a good job with this one, but I felt like the conclusion was just sort of tacked on at the end. There was no warning that they were close to catching the killer, it just sort of happened. That kind of bugged me. But I still liked it well enough to recommend it. Just be aware that it’s a sad book. If I judged this one as a mystery, I’d rate it pretty low, but as a study of loss and its effects, I’d give it 4 stars out of 5.