An expertly muckraking thriller that exposes a particularly vicious baby-selling racket.
The good news for surgical pathologist Dooley McSweeney is that his adopted son Teddy doesn’t really have leukemia; his worrisome infection is only mononucleosis. The bad news is that Teddy’s bone sample shows the telltale fluorescence caused only by tetracycline—an antibiotic Dooley and his lawyer wife Claudia have never given Teddy, and one surely unavailable in the grungy Russian orphanage from which they rescued him four years ago. As Dooley starts his painful search for the truth about his son’s birthright, celebrity reporter Gabrielle Coulter is making an equally painful discovery in Moscow: Someone has murdered her videographer, Justin Craig, and destroyed their tapes showing conditions at a local orphanage. Slogans the killers have scrawled on the wall suggest that the perps were patriotic zealots who didn’t want Mother Russia to look bad, but Gabrielle soon suspects a far more sinister motive behind the killing. It’s only a matter of time, of course, before her search for the truth converges with Dooley’s, and neither of the subplots D’Amato (Hard Road, 2001, etc.) employs to delay the payoff—baleful glimpses at the inner circle of Windsor House, an adoption mill that will stop at nothing to increase its profits, and scarcely less teasing glimpses at an FBI operation against Windsor House—is particularly compelling. But her trademark skill at magnifying the ordinary anxieties of her characters to nightmare proportions keeps the story moving swiftly, and only the hardest hearts will be able to resist the tear-jerking tug of her Web-based epigraphs (“By the way, my doctor says multiple sclerosis in the mother doesn’t hurt the baby or pass on to the baby. God be with you”).
Like a contemporary Anne Perry, D’Amato looses the dogs of suspense against an all-too-plausible scenario of epidemic social injustice. The heart-rending, page-turning result is irresistible.