English professor Kate Fansler (Honest Doubt, 2000, etc.) has always treasured her differences from the stuffy investment bankers she has for older brothers, but it never occurred to her that there might be a special reason for those differences. Now, without warning, the unasked riddle is answered by the appearance of a man who claims to be her father and has the DNA evidence to back him up. Jason (“Jay”) Ebenezer Smith is a successful restoration architect who fell in love with her older society mother before he was 20, he tells Kate; she dismissed Jay soon after the newborn Kate was accepted by her husband without suspicion; and he hasn’t been in touch with her before because he went west to get away from Louise Fansler and ended up in the Witness Protection Program after testifying against a former friend, an art thief who killed a guard during a museum robbery and swore to kill Jay as well if he were ever released from prison. It’s a tale as romantic as the persistent Shakespeare analogies with which it’s garnished, but some checking by Kate’s husband, former New York ADA Reed Amhearst, reveals strategic omissions and distortions that trouble Kate even more deeply when Jay disappears, leaving Kate and Reed to sort through the versions of his life story until they learn the truth.
The crown of Cross’s career, a search for Kate’s roots unfolding almost entirely in carefully wrought dialogue that perfectly mingles detective work, literary criticism, and the tale of the heroine’s birthright.