Jillian Hoffman’s fourth novel delves into the dark side of the internet, focusing on how a sadistic killer posing as a teenage boy uses social networking sites as a route into the hearts and minds of vulnerable girls. Lainey Emerson, a lonely teenager from an unhappy home, appears to be his latest victim. When she disappears after supposedly going to the cinema with a schoolfriend (whose name her mother is not really sure of), Special Agent Supervisor Bobby Dees is determined to find her. This is in spite of the Coral Springs Police Department having written her off as a runaway, escaping her stepfather. Bobby Dees heads a crimes against children department and he has personally become well-known for finding missing teenagers. We soon realise he has more understanding than most about the grief over a missing child as his own daughter has been missing for over a year.
It quickly becomes clear that Bobby may be looking for a serial killer as mutilated bodies are being discovered. The investigation throws up some unpalatable truths about missing children and how well anyone really knows their own family. Before long, hunter and hunted are playing hide and seek as the killer taunts Bobby by sending his “work” (grotesque pictures with clues as to who and where) to a smalltime TV reporter.
Will Bobby crack the clues and find Lainey? Can he catch the killer? Will the mystery of his own daughter’s disappearance be resolved?
This is an engrossing read. It is fast-paced with strong characters you care about (particularly Bobby) and there is a thrilling build-up to the conclusion. I particularly liked the scenes between Bobby and his wife, LuAnn, as they were beautifully written, encapsulating the loss they both felt as well as the enduring love between them. Pretty Little Things is written from different perspectives, which I usually enjoy in a book, and here it gives us a greater understanding of the characters and the sequence of events.
I think some readers might find the ending a touch disappointing as some of it was a little predictable, but overall I think the book was so well-written that it doesn’t really matter. Thrilling, chilling and warm at the same time.