Thirteen year old Miles Teagarden and his one year older racy cousin, Alison Greening, went skinny-dipping in the quarry in Arden, Wisconsin, and made a pact to reunite twenty years in the future. Only Miles left the quarry alive. He doesn't remember what happened, but Alison drowned and everyone blamed him for it - though, hypocritical prudes that the townsfolk were, they felt the girl had it coming.
Now, twenty years later, Miles has returned to honor the pact. With his return comes a shocking wave of serial murders and abductions - all of young girls of Alison's age and appearance. Suspicion falls upon him, and Miles has a knack for making it all worse. He's ruffling a lot of feathers, figuring out what really happened to Alison all those years ago. And before long, he's got much bigger worries than being the prime suspect in the most horrific crimes Arden has ever seen - because it seems someone is trying to kill him...
This is a flawed novel, but it's a great flawed novel. Written between his debut book, Julia, and his most popular work, Ghost Story, Straub's If You Could See Me Now is a bridge between his supernatural horror fiction and his later Blue Rose murder mystery trilogy. The suspense in this book is superior, never letting up and continually adding new surprises in plot development.
The book is thematically rich, and could easily become the subject of any number of contemporary literature research papers. It is mostly a murder mystery, and a well-written one at that. The supernatural element in the story is ill-explained and seems somewhat inconsistent, yet it works. Alison's motivations are not understandable, though in large part Straub seems to have intended her character to be enigmatic - her name, and her method of manifestation, suggest a change in her akin to becoming some sort of perverse nature elemental.
If you like suspense - supernatural, or more mundane crime melodrama - this is the book for you.