The niece of a scientist missing for 50 years receives a valise that could unlock the mystery of her aunt’s 1914 disappearance in Williams’ newest romance.
It’s 1964, and Bryn Mawr graduate Vivian Schuyler is working her way up from fact checker to writer at Metropolitan, the New York City magazine owned by her college friend Gogo’s father. When her great-aunt Violet’s suitcase mysteriously arrives at the post office, addressed to her, she decides to investigate her trailblazing ancestor’s life; it doesn't hurt that she begins a romantic relationship with the handsome doctor who lugs the bag up to her fifth-floor apartment. But her family proves closemouthed about Aunt Violet, a progressive thinker who married her much-older Oxford professor and moved with him to Berlin. Even worse, Vivian finds out that the doctor has also been dating Gogo, and that relationship stalls. While Vivian sorts through her love-hate relationship with Dr. Paul, she explores the suitcase and finds troves of information: proof of a love affair between Violet and an Englishman; documents belonging to an American woman and her son; and a journal penned by Violet’s husband detailing his sexual exploits. Convinced that the trail in the U.S. has run its course, Vivian continues her quest in London. As her search winds down and Vivian puts together the final pieces of information, she finally resolves the long-standing mystery and sets a course for her future. Williams competently advances the narratives of both women by alternating between Vivian's and Violet’s stories. But although both are interesting protagonists, readers will find Vivian’s wisecracking subterfuge annoying and question Violet’s naïve, subservient approach to her marriage, especially since she’s previously been presented as a strong, intelligent woman.
Even readers interested in pure escapism will want to know why Vivian’s family wasn’t interested in discovering the complete truth about Violet’s fate prior to Vivian’s investigation.