Lisa Scottoline is back in top form in Save Me, manipulating pulse rates and heartstrings with all the ruthlessness she showed in Look Again (2009). As she did in that white-knuckle thriller, she sets loose today's most indomitable superhero, the protecting angel who carries all before her: a mom.
Rose McKenna is newly arrived in Philadelphia with her husband, infant son and daughter, Melly. They moved from their previous home because Melly, afflicted with a facial birthmark, was being bullied at school.
While volunteering as a lunch mom to assess the situation at the new school, Rose witnesses a girl, the pretty and popular Amanda, entertaining a couple of friends by painting her cheek with grape jelly in mockery of Melly's birthmark. Melly runs off in tears to the bathroom, and as Rose tries to reason with the girls, an explosion rips through the kitchen, filling the cafeteria with smoke and flames.
Now what? Rose is faced with a terrible choice: Save the three little bullies or run off amid the fire and confusion to rescue her daughter from the bathroom. There are so many excellent twists and terrible surprises to come that it's not giving much away to say that Rose manages to lead the three tormentors to safety and then to save her child. But archbully Amanda runs back into the cafeteria and is badly injured.
Although celebrated as a hero, Rose feels guilty for having put her own child second to the others. That feeling is joined by horror and dismay when Amanda's mother accuses her of abandoning the girl. The town turns against Rose, the press shows fangs, and everyone lawyers up.
Just when the reader is wondering whether Rose will ever fight back, steel enters her spine. A chance conversation brings evidence that there was something fishy about the fire, and she means to get to the bottom of it.
Events culminate in a spectacular conflagration, and in the midst of it all, one mighty figure towers: Mom.