The 52-car chain-reaction pile-up that leaves Free Meeker’s hitchhiking passenger Lydia dead and a young lad named Jamie screaming for his Nike bag but dying before Free can find it and bring it to him opens up fabulous possibilities for the nose-ringed, head-shaved, pregnant, and unwed Free. Since she’s listed as dead in the accident report, she can absorb Lydia’s ID and live off the stash—nearly a million bucks, presumably in drug-courier money—in Jamie’s Nike bag. Free moves on to Portland, rents space in a newly divorced woman’s house, signs up for birthing classes, and—as eyewitness to another, more modest car accident—meets good-guy cop Craig, but doesn’t let him in on her subterfuges. Since Lydia’s abusive husband is determined to find his runaway wife, and Jamie’s drug boss needs that bag of money to pay off the syndicate, they’re both soon in hot pursuit of the now wigged, ringless, and conservatively garbed Free. The husband, whose adrenaline has kicked into high at the prospect of thrill-killing, and the drug honcho, who has no recriminations about murdering to meet his payoffs, are soon circling around Free, whose stress level is causing her to go into false labor. The inevitable confrontation results in more casualties, a confession, and the relinquishing of what’s left in the Nike bag.
A two-hankie endangered-woman saga, buoyed by Free’s rebellion against her hippie parents and her feelings about sharing her body space with a stranger. A nice change of pace from Henry’s Claire Montrose series (Heart-Shaped Box, 2001, etc.).