Jeff Abbott (Panic) bundles raw emotions together and lights them on fire in his intense and superbly executed thriller Blame.

Jane Norton is a young college dropout trying to remember details of a car accident in high school that damaged her brain and killed her best friend David. Former friends in the affluent community of Lakehaven, Tex., blame Jane for David's death because of an old note found by investigators indicating her intentions to commit a murder-suicide. Ostracized by her hometown and estranged from her mother, Jane begins questioning and investigating events leading up to the fatal crash as her memory returns in fleeting glimpses. Something about her father's death years earlier doesn't add up, and she becomes determined to find what's beneath Lakehaven's well-to-do façade.

Blame is a cut above the average thriller. Abbott carefully untangles his plot at just the right moments--a feat of pacing and timing--and his prose is stellar throughout. It's tack-sharp and evocative without being overwrought. "Their mutual betrayals lay between them like a stone wall that could almost be seen," Abbott writes of the separation between Jane and a friend-turned-foe. He adroitly twists his characters in the "acid blame" that follows tragedy and turns people against each other. The gossip and finger pointing, the resentments and recriminations, all come undone in a hair-raising finale. Blame is a deft portrait of frailty and suffering, and a riveting thriller that doesn't let up. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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