Half Moon Bay by Alice LaPlante
eBook review copy; 272 pages
Half Moon Bay by Alice LaPlante is a so-so dark mystery/psychological study of a grieving mother.
A year ago Jane O'Malley lost her teenage daughter, Angela, to a car
accident. Ever since that day, Jane's grief has been overwhelming,
all-encompassing, and consuming her every thought. Her marriage ended.
In an effort to find some way to live her life, Jane, a botanist, has
the tiny seaside town of Half Moon Bay to work at Smithson’s
Nursery with the native plants. Awkward handling interpersonal
relationships and conversations, Jane is just trying to find her way
through her grief.
When the young girls start disappearing, though, Jane's loner ways and
inept social skills put her on the police and FBI list of suspects. It
doesn't help that Jane has no alibi for the time the girls disappear and
for later, when their bodies are found. Her one, albeit weird and odd,
obsessive need becomes her recent friendship with new residents, Alma
Godwin and Edward Stanton, and her affair with Edward. But, as more
information comes to light, Jane has been making bad decisions since her
daughter's death. Can you trust her?
I'm not a fan of the writing technique LaPlante utilizes in Half Moon Bay. The
dialogue is italicized, and part of Jane's thoughts in a
stream-of-consciousness style. The narrative is told through Jane's
first person account but, because Jane is so consumed with grief, and
has her thoughts stray all the time, this can make the narrative
difficult to follow.
While readers will feel sympathy for Jane, she is not a trustworthy or
likeable character. Well, no one is in this dark, atmospheric
psychological study (with the exception of Adam, a co-worker at the
nursery). The ease in which Jane can be manipulated and seduced by
Edward and Alma is annoying and disturbing. I've got to say that there
is no great surprise about the plot or the ending of Half Moon Bay.
Astute readers are going to know with certainty what direction the plot
is going to take very early in the novel and will be correct.
My review copy was courtesy of Scribner.