At 12, Chloe Davis—the protagonist of Willingham’s devastating debut—watched in horror as her father pleaded guilty to murdering six teenage girls from Breaux Bridge, La., and agreed to serve six consecutive life sentences in order to avoid the death penalty. Shortly thereafter, her mother attempted suicide, and her gregarious older brother retreated inside himself. Now, Chloe is a 32-year-old self-medicating Baton Rouge psychologist, whose family history is unknown to nearly everyone but Daniel Briggs, the pharmaceutical salesperson to whom she’s now engaged following a whirlwind romance. Chloe is already apprehensive regarding the impending 20th anniversary of her father’s crime spree, so when a 15-year-old girl disappears from Chloe’s neighborhood, she tries not to panic. A few days later, however, another 15-year-old girl vanishes after leaving Chloe’s office, forcing Chloe to question whether a copycat killer has found her, or her paranoid imagination is seeing patterns where none exist. Willingham skillfully intercuts Chloe’s anxious first-person narration in the present with flashbacks to her childhood, ratcheting up the tension. Atmospheric prose and abundant red herrings amplify the tale’s intensity. Willingham is a writer to watch. Agent: Dan Conaway, Writers House. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Advance Praise for A Flicker in the Dark
“Willingham skillfully intercuts Chloe’s anxious first-person narration in the present with flashbacks to her childhood, ratcheting up the tension. Atmospheric prose and abundant red herrings amplify the tale’s intensity. Willingham is a writer to watch.” —Publishers Weekly
“I have not felt this excited about a thriller in years. I could not put this book down. It's fabulous.” —Chelsea Cain
"Don't trust anyone in this wickedly good debut by Stacy Willingham. A twisty and propulsive thriller." —Peter Swanson
"A psychological thriller in the truest sense an engaging, propulsive read, loaded with surprising twists, that genuinely thrills as it gets deep under the skin of its fascinating heroine, Chloe Davis. I tore through this book." —Alison Gaylin
"Haunting, lyrical and utterly compelling! These are just a few of the words of praise one could use to describe A Flicker in the Dark. Author Willingham takes us on an unstoppable journey through the psychology of evil, and of courage (in many senses), all told in a pitch-perfect literary style. Once you start reading, you will not put it down." —Jeffery Deaver
DEBUT Willingham's novel explores the post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by those left in the wake of a serial killer. Chloe is a 32-year-old medical psychologist living in Baton Rouge, LA, who appears to have it together. However, she self-medicates to deal with the anxiety she feels because of trauma experienced when she was 12 years old. That was when Chloe's father was convicted of murdering six girls in the small town of Breaux Bridge, and she and her family were left to pick up the pieces. Now, as the 20th anniversary of the killings approaches, a girl goes missing very close to Chloe's home and office. Chloe comes to suspect that the disappearance is connected to her father. VERDICT A great addition to any mystery/psychological thriller collection, with an unforgettable character haunted by her past in an authentic Louisiana setting, which ups the creep factor.—Lacey Webster, Acadia Parish Library, Crowley, LA
Twenty years after Chloe Davis’ father was convicted of killing half a dozen young women, someone seems to be celebrating the anniversary by extending the list.
No one in little Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, was left untouched by Richard Davis’ confession, least of all his family members. His wife, Mona, tried to kill herself and has been incapacitated ever since. His son, Cooper, became so suspicious that even now it’s hard for him to accept pharmaceutical salesman Daniel Briggs, whose sister, Sophie, also vanished 20 years ago, as Chloe’s fiance. And Chloe’s own nightmares, which lead her to rebuff New York Times reporter Aaron Jansen, who wants to interview her for an anniversary story, are redoubled when her newest psychiatric patient, Lacey Deckler, follows the path of high school student Aubrey Gravino by disappearing and then turning up dead. The good news is that Dick Davis, whom Chloe has had no contact with ever since he was imprisoned after his confession, obviously didn’t commit these new crimes. The bad news is that someone else did, someone who knows a great deal about the earlier cases, someone who could be very close to Chloe indeed. First-timer Willingham laces her first-person narrative with a stifling sense of victimhood that extends even to the survivors and a series of climactic revelations, at least some of which are guaranteed to surprise the most hard-bitten readers.
The story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.