Philadelphia shamus Dave Garrett gets a chance to exercise his practiced sensitivity on himself when his office assistant, Lisa Wilson, digs far enough into his past to figure out that he's not who he thinks he is; certainly he's not his mother Barbara's son. Dave's so shocked by the news that Lisa, a transsexual with a long-standing crush on him, is almost convinced she's made a terrible mistake in opening this can of worms. But after a few deep breaths, they're ready to head out to California—where Barbara's sister Rachel Potok, who's been in a coma for untold years, is finally dying—and track down Dave's real parents. There seems to be even less plot than usual in Dave's understated, powerfully imagined cases (Appointment in May, 1996, etc.)—Dave and Lisa, speaking in alternating chapters, check birth records, interview likely (and dismayingly unlikely) maternal candidates, and take time out to attend Rachel's funeral and fall into bed together. Yet Albert, as ever, finds the embers that glow under these old coals: Dave confronts Barbara with his suspicions and realizes he can't face down her steadfast denials; Dave gets to meet the engaging psychiatrist who was, as he's now learned, Barbara's first husband; barely observant Dave worries that if his real mother wasn't Jewish, he isn't either. The result is a quietly moving tale likely to be especially welcome to readers who've followed Dave's fortunes ever since The January Corpse (1991).
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