For decades, Eden has remained hidden in the remote wilds of the Pacific Northwest, “Pastor” keeping his cult’s followers in thrall for his personal profit and sexual pleasures. But the Founding Elders are splintering, and Pastor’s surrogate son DJ is scheming to make it all his own.
When two of Eden’s newest members send out a cry for help, it reaches FBI Special Agent Tom Hunter, whose friend Gideon Reynolds and his sister, Mercy, are themselves escapees of the Eden cult, targeted by the Founding Elders who want them silenced forever. The three have vowed to find the cult and bring it down, and now, they finally have a solid lead.
Neutralising Eden’s threat will save captive members and ensure Tom’s new friends can live without fear. But when his best friend, ex-Army combat medic Liza Barkley, joins the case, it puts her life—and their blossoming love—in danger. With everything they hold dear in the balance, Tom and Liza, together with Gideon and Mercy, must end Eden once and for all.
Say Goodbye is the final instalment of the Sacramento trilogy which continues the story of the Eden cult and the effect it had on those who managed to escape its clutches. In the first book, we got FBI Special Agent Gideon Callahan’s story of his time in the cult and the second book focused on the story of Gideon’s sister, Mercy, who was left behind after Gideon’s escape and endured harrowing abuse at the hands of the man she was forced to marry when she was twelve. The third book turns its attention to FBI Special Agent Tom Hunter who is a familiar name to those who have read all of Rose’s previous novels.
We first met Tom Hunter as a child in Don’t Tell, the first book in the Chicago series, where his mother had rebuilt a life for them after fleeing her abusive cop husband but her past soon catches up with her. Hiding being the identity of Caroline Stewart, Tom’s mother falls in love with the head of the college department where she works but their happiness is soon disrupted when Tom’s father finds them. Caroline and Max Hunter overcome various obstacles to marry and Tom finally gets a loving father. Tom has suffered heartache of his own since then after losing his fiancee to a violent act and has given up on the idea of love.
In Say Goodbye, Tom becomes involved in the investigation into the Eden cult through his close friend, Gideon Callahan, and is determined to find their commune. However, he is not happy when his best friend, Liza Barkley, a former Army medic and current nursing student, is drawn deeper into the case and becomes a target for the cult. Tom and Liza have a complicated history as they are essentially friends but Liza has always been in love with Tom. Tom, aware of Liza’s feeling, ignored them as he felt she was too young for him and he became engaged to someone else. Liza responds by joining the Army and marrying a fellow medic who looks surprisingly like Tom. Now a widow, Liza comes to Sacramento to go to nursing school and ends up sharing a duplex with Tom but any hopes she has of a relationship with him are dashed when he continues to shut her out.
Things get even more complicated when they both get drawn into the Eden investigation and become close to the Sokolov family who are very aware of the attraction between them even when they both deny it. Tom and Liza’s frustrations boil over to the extent their friendship becomes strained to the point they are barely on speaking terms. However, Gideon and Mercy are both in extreme danger, as is anyone close to them, so Tom and Liza have to put their differences aside as lives depend on them being vigilant.
The latest cult member out to get Gideon and Mercy, is DJ Belmont, the surrogate son of Pastor, one of the founding leaders of Eden. DJ plays the part of the loyal son, however he has plans to take over Eden and doesn’t care who he has to kill to get it. As a child, DJ was also subjected to the same form of abuse as Gideon and Mercy, however he embraced the pain and it warped his mind. He rose higher in the ranks as the older leaders died and he knows enough secrets to bring Pastor down.
Finding the cult becomes even more critical as we are introduced to the latest family who have been duped into joining, including pregnant teenager Hayley Gibbs and her twelve-year-old brother, Graham, and realise their situation is becoming increasingly precarious as the leadership is fragmenting. The cult has been forced into moving their commune into a series of caves but they are fast running out of supplies as their network of contacts has been disrupted by the authorities. There is a growing sense of dread within the cult community and it feels like they are heading for their own Jonestown tragedy.
Fortunately, Graham uses his IT skills and manages to contact the authorities who bring his messages to the attention of Tom who finds a way to keep in touch with the boy. Tom and the others manage to piece together the disparate clues they have gleaned to identify the location of the commune but it is a frantic race against time to save everyone.
Say Goodbye brings the story of the Eden cult to a satisfying conclusion but this was my least favourite of the three novels and I felt it was too long. Tom and Liza’s relationship was quite irritating as their prickly feelings often got in the way but I suppose that was the whole point. It just got tedious after a while. I’ve read all of Rose’s books and never seemed to hold the same sense of affection for the character of Tom Hunter as others but I’m sure they will be satisfied with his happy ever after.