Sometimes the person you thought you knew best . . . turns out to be someone you never really knew at all.
Two years ago, Jane Norton crashed her car on a lonely road, killing her friend David, who was a passenger in the vehicle, and leaving her with amnesia. At first, everyone was sympathetic. Then the note she wrote was discovered and its contents revealed: “I wish we were dead together.” The community immediately turned against her.
Jane remains filled with questions, the answers to which elude her due to her memory loss. Why were she and David on that road? Why was she with David? Did she really want to die?
Now Jane has received an anonymous message and she must find out who sent it: “I know you what you claim you don’t remember, Jane. I know what happened that night. And I’m going to tell. All will pay.”
Two years have passed since then-high school senior Jane Norton was driving the car in which her dear friend, classmate, and next door neighbor, David Hall, was riding. David died at the scene of the accident and Jane sustained a traumatic brain injury that left her with severe memory loss. While she can recall events from her childhood, Jane has never regained any memories from her high school years leading up to the accident. Among the memories lost are those surrounding her father’s death and the painful days that followed.
After the accident, Jane returned to school and graduated. She even attempted to attend college. But she could not handle the challenges and eventually flunked out. Since then, Jane has been adrift, refusing to live with her mother who stubbornly continues to reside next door to Perri, David’s bitter mother. Perri blames Jane for more than David’s death. She “had defined herself as a mother from the moment she knew David was growing inside her, and Jane had stolen who she was . . . murdered the person Perri used to be.” Like Jane’s widowed mother, Perri lives alone — in the aftermath of the loss of their only son, David’s father, Cal, moved out and the Halls’ divorce is pending. Unlike Perri, who is openly hostile to Jane, Cal assists her in her quest for the truth.
Most of the time, Jane hides in her friend Adam’s dorm room since he does not have an assigned roommate. Adam provides money so that Jane can take meals in the dormitory’s dining hall. Jane has no other supportive friends, and is ostracized, and lacking direction in her life. As the story opens, author Jeff Abbott convincingly details Jane’s loss, loneliness, and frustration, instantly pulling readers into her tragic plight, even though the veracity of her perceptions is highly suspect.
I know you what you claim you don’t remember, Jane. I know what happened that night. And I’m going to tell. All will pay.
An anonymous Internet threat — “All will pay” — and a violent confrontation with Perri at David’s gravesite on the anniversary of the accident set in motion Jane’s desperate search for the truth about the accident, as well as her life in the years preceding it. Jane is lost, in large part, because she has no clear recollection or understanding of what kind of person she was. She doesn’t recall the true nature of her relationship with Kamala, who insists they were the best of friends, a claim Jane can’t fully trust — even although she cannot articulate why. But the question that haunts her the most? Why were she and David driving on that road?
Blame is a tightly-constructed mystery full of unexpected revelations unveiled by Abbott at expertly-timed intervals, as well as surprising plot twists. It also features an inherently unreliable, but fascinating narrator — Jane — who has lost not just her memory, but her very identity. She is an extremely sympathetic character and Abbott skillfully makes her frustrations uncomfortably palpable. Because of what she has been through, Jane has no self-confidence. The people in her life are largely strangers to her. She mistrusts their representations about the nature and quality of her relationships with them prior to the accident, as does the reader — for good reason, in some instances. Every supporting character is a suspect, including Jane’s overly protective mother, Laurel, even though those characters’ motivations for wanting to keep the truth from Jane are not immediately apparent. Abbott keeps the action moving at a quick pace that accelerates to a jaw-dropping conclusion most readers will never see coming.
Although an amnesiac as the central voice in a mystery is hardly a unique plot device, Abbott elevates the technique, making his execution of the story essentially flawless and thoroughly enjoyable.