The story begins in California. 1980. Kelly Lund is 17 years old. Still suffering the death of her twin sister Catherine two years earlier, Kelly befriends the celebrity kids her sister was entangled with before her death. By the end of the year, Kelly is charged, tried, and convicted of the murder of famed Hollywood director -- and father of one of her best friends -- John McFadden. Three bullets: two to the chest, one to the forehead. Is Kelly guilty? Around this central mystery is a story about revelations and redemption.

Time-shift narration takes readers between 1980 -- before Kelly goes to prison -- and 2010, when she is released on probation. When a similar murder happens after her release, Kelly is once again under suspicion. While the plot is tight and contains the right amount of twists and surprises (one more surprise and I might have docked this one star), it is in no way a typical mystery-thriller. It's more like a slow-burn episode of Dallas, Knots Landing and Beverly Hills 90210 mashed up with some folksy novel about familial connections and love triumphing over suffering (Grapes of Wrath?). It's about people with secrets, parents and children, brothers, sisters and best friends.

Alison Gaylin writes really believable characters, a remarkable feat especially when you consider the characters are "Hollywood" and Gaylin takes us right into their darkest secrets without making the novel overly-lurid or corny like a Sidney Sheldon novel. The teens talk like teens in the early 80s might talk, and it's really interesting to see how much attention Gaylin paid to how her characters converse, but avoids describing their physicality in great detail. I can't even tell you what colour hair the two main female characters have, but it doesn't seem to matter.

Great book. Waiting for Gaylin's next one.

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