Jack has just got out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit, statutory rape against a student at the posh private school he used to work at. He arrives in Salem Falls and takes a job at a diner run by Addie, who has problems of her own. As soon as the men of the town find out he’s a sex offender, they set to work trying to run him out of town until the unthinkable happens and a teenage girl accuses Jack of rape and his ordeal starts all over again.
As always Jodi Picoult is not afraid of tackling controversial subjects and I found the first half of the book to be uncomfortable reading at times. A lot of different viewpoints are included in the book, from the girl who cries wolf to the genuine victims who don’t think they will be believed, from the wrongly accused to the guilty.
Loosely based on The Crucible, it is very much a modern day witch hunt which is only highlighted by the fact that the girls are practising Wiccans. As a reader we instantly like Jack and want to believe his innocence, so it’s difficult when the town is so hostile towards him. You really think they would have the intelligence to know the difference between statutory rape and a violent crime, whatever your views on the matter they are not in the same ballpark. As you read on, you learn that the locals are in no position to judge either.
Doubt creeps in when the trial starts and evidence mounts up. Even Jordan, who you may know from other books, is only doing his job in defending him. I admit, I seem to be reading Jordan’s stories backwards as I have previously read Vanishing Acts and grown to like him as a person. Jacks’ life is told backwards from the day of his release right back to his birth and the more you read, the more you think he is not the type of man to have committed these crimes. The defense’s investigation and the ensuing trial are pacey and gripping making this another quick yet substantial read. I’m not sure I’ll ever get through one of Jodi’s novels with a dry eye!
Annoyingly, my copy had more typographical errors than the average uncorrected proof and this is from an edition published four years after its original release. I’m a bit disappointed that no-one thought to correct these.
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