"Greetings," the note begins. "There is a body buried on your property, covered in your blood. The unfortunate young lady's name is Rita Jones. You've seen this missing schoolteacher's face on the news, I'm sure. In her jeans pocket, you'll find a slip of paper with a phone number on it. You have one day to call that number. If I have not heard from you by 8:00 p.m. tomorrow, the Charlotte Police Department will receive an anonymous phone call. I'll tell them where Rita Jones is buried on Andrew Thomas' lakefront property, how he killed her, and where the murder weapon can be found in his house. (I do believe a paring knife is missing from your kitchen.)" Fictional mystery author Andrew Thomas is almost ready to write the note off as the work of a fan with a slightly deranged sense of humor, but the part about the missing paring knife rings true. In a matter of a few short hours, Thomas will dig up the remains of a young woman, just where the author of the note said she would be, and his life will become a waking nightmare. Blake Crouch's first novel, Desert Places, displays the careful craftsmanship of a talented newcomer to the mystery genre. The premise may be a bit far-fetched, but he carries it off seamlessly. The interplay between the protagonist and the villain is crisp and clever, and the plot development is relentless. Can't wait for the sequel!

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