Stephanie Harker’s adoptive son Jimmy is kidnapped from the secure area of O’Hare Airport while she is in the full body scanner. After an initial frantic period of activity, she sits down with FBI agent Vivian McKuras to tell the long tale of how she became Jimmy’s guardian.
Even though this story is necessary to understand the novel, its context within a police interview during a search for a missing child is not at all convincing. I doubt very many police interviews consist of one person talking for hours without any questions from the police. Then there is the issue of how McKuras can lead the investigation if she is interviewing Stephanie all night long. Presenting this information as a series of flashbacks would have taken care of the problem. This is an unusual misjudgment for McDermid.
The bulk of the novel centers around Stephanie’s relationship with Scarlett Higgins, a reality TV star who hires Stephanie to ghostwrite a memoir for her. Although Scarlett maintains a persona of a dumb blonde, Stephanie quickly realizes that Scarlett is a lot smarter than she seems and grows to like her. Stephanie becomes involved in Scarlett’s life, her marriage to a popular D.J., and all the difficulties of her celebrity.
When Scarlett dies of cancer, she leaves her young son Jimmy to Stephanie’s care. The story is long and complicated but doesn’t turn up many suspects in the kidnapping except Stephanie’s own stalker ex-boyfriend Pete. In fact, the novel gets fairly involving and does a good job of leading its readers down the garden path for quite some time.
I won’t give away the ending, but it is so completely far-fetched that it left me gasping. Despite its rough beginning, McDermid as ever writes a gripping novel, but this one ends up in the stratosphere.