From best-selling author Joyce Maynard—a writer who shot to international fame after the release of her memoir detailing her affair with J.D. Salinger—comes a riveting mystery, After Her. Inspired by the true-life story of the Mount Tamalpais Trailside Killer, Maynard’s thriller follows what happens when a predatory serial killer strikes in the backyard of two young girls, whose father happens to be the lead detective on the case.
In the summer of 1979, Rachel Toricelli and her younger sister Patty spend their days concocting elaborate fantasies and playing inventive games on the mountain behind their Marin County home—for in the wake of their parents’ recent divorce, there is little to no parental guidance during their summer vacation. Their mother, a quiet poet, spends most of her time chain-smoking and reading in her bedroom. Their father, Dino—a suave homicide detective who could make the most stoic woman blush—sporadically swoops in to take the girls out to dinner in North Beach. The girls miss their charming father desperately. Then the first murder takes place almost literally in their backyard.
As more young girls are raped and strangled, the killer is dubbed the Sunset Strangler, and Dino becomes the lead detective on the case. The girls begin to see their father mostly on their neighbors’ television screens as he gives endless press conferences. As a result of her father’s “stardom,” Rachel finds herself elevated to the popular girl group, where she gossips, dates and leaves her younger sister behind, and Maynard cleverly juxtaposes these quieter coming-of-age dilemmas with the hunt for the killer.
Maynard skillfully draws out the hunt for the Sunset Strangler, keeping readers’ attention despite the somewhat literary pace. In fact, it is the last few chapters of the book, which follow the adult Rachel, that make this story so intriguing. Readers will hang on to Maynard’s final words in order to find out what became of the Sunset Strangler, the secrets of Dino’s past and how Rachel finally resolves her haunting obsession.
After Her perfectly captures the essence of California in the late 1970s, as a young woman explores her sexuality, her ties to her family and ultimately, how her own innocence was shattered.