An Oregon lawyer learns that he has a 5-year-old daughter but soon finds himself a murder suspect when the girl’s mother turns up dead in Smith’s debut thriller.
Guy Phillips and his wife, Sarah, have been hoping for a pregnancy in vain. They’re both in for a shock when Guy’s old flame Andrea Young shows up at their door in Portland with little Cesca in tow, saying the child is his. Guy’s determined to be a part of Cesca’s life, even if Andrea and boyfriend Darren Adams are raising the girl in Dallas. Mere months after the big surprise, however, cops find Andrea’s body floating in a lake, dead from gunshots. Detective Chuck Davis faces a formidable case. Andrea had her fair share of lovers over the years, and Cesca could give either Guy or Darren a motive. Moreover, retired cop Frank Young suspects his daughter-in-law might have had something to do with his missing son, Pete, who disappeared without a trace six years ago. No one possesses a very strong alibi, but Guy’s possible reignited affair with Andrea bumps him to the top spot on Chuck’s suspect list. A second homicide makes Guy look even more questionable, forcing him to prove his innocence by pointing authorities to the real killer. The story’s opening is a doozy: readers discover what happened to Pete. Smith follows this up by smartly revealing Andrea’s death early in the novel and then flashing back to her Portland visit. Chuck’s investigation—interrogating Guy, Darren, and Andrea’s mom, Lori, while detecting the occasional lie—is certainly engrossing. Guy, too, boasts a gleefully complex and somewhat shady background. But the Cesca subplot with its dramatically rich core nearly upstages the murder mystery. Both the girl’s biological father and the man who raised her, for example, have sound reasoning for why they should have custody. They also make superb potential killers, and Smith spins the final act into a plot dense with feasible murderers and homicide scenarios. It’s twisty but logical and, best of all, not easy to predict.
A novel that methodically works its way to the end, ensuring a well-whetted appetite for mystery.