It’s like In Cold Blood but so much closer home. Joyce Maynard’s After Her is a suspense novel developed out of a kernel of true crime, right here in Marin County, north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The setting is literally my backyard—the beautiful Mt. Tamalpais State Park and Golden Gate National recreation Area. In Marin County, during late 1970s, a serial killer known as the Trailside Killer assaulted and murdered several women on the trails of Mt. Tamalpais. Maynard uses this historical event as her setting, and the focuses on the story of two sisters who, after their parents’ divorce, were left to their own devices. The inseparable sisters spend their time studying record jackets, watching the neighbor’s TV through the back windows, playing around the mountain that looms behind the house.
Because the novel is set in a place so close to my heart, I couldn’t wait to get my hand on it. The locations mentioned—Bolinas Ridge, Point Reyes, Mountain Home, Steep Ravine Trail—can’t be more familiar. During my hikes through the networks of roads and trails up the beautiful Mt. Tamalpais, I, too, had a surreal sense of how quiet and isolated it is up the rolling hills. On a very clear day the distant skyline of the city is in sight. On a typical summer day, you’ll often find yourself on an altitude above the marine fog layer. So, in the midst of this beautiful wilderness is a serial killer who has taken the lives of twelve women (up to page 190). It makes perfect pool reading although I have devoured about 190 pages over coffee this morning.