A psychiatrist working a child custody case hears increasingly alarming accusations from both parents’ sides as a court battle ramps up.
Hired to support the custody case for anxious mother Jenna Radford, Dr. Natalie King (Dangerous to Know, 2016, etc.) has a hard time understanding Jenna’s reasons for trying to separate her kids from the man she’s divorced. Jenna’s ex, Malik Essa, is the birth father of her son, Chris, and the adoptive father of her daughter, Chelsea. Even so, he’s the only father either has ever known, and Natalie wonders why Jenna is so adamant about restricting his access to them. Natalie can’t help but think of what’s going on in her own life now that she knows she’s pregnant but isn’t sure whether the father is Liam, her supportive boyfriend, or Damian, who appeals more to her rocker side. After an initial court hearing that seems to favor Malik, Jenna spirals increasingly out of control, accusing him of everything from spousal abuse to molesting Chelsea. Her behavior puts Natalie in a tricky position when the judge requires her to evaluate both parents and both kids in spite of Natalie’s limited experience with children. Though Jenna’s claims seem to come out of nowhere, and Natalie’s beginning to doubt Jenna’s ability to parent, it’s her duty to do her best for Chris and Chelsea. It won’t be easy, though, given two parents both apparently willing to go to any lengths to win custody, and Natalie’s so fearful that whatever’s fueling the increasingly volatile battle will result in danger for the children that she forgets to consider her own safety.
The heroine, who’s smart and driven to do what’s best, still can’t help but have an emotional reaction to the case and the possible consequences of making the wrong recommendation in this latest installment of Buist’s well-informed, fast-paced look at the dangers in the child welfare system.