Would a mother abandon her child to get out of a problematic marriage?
Still mourning her miscarried baby, DI Gemma James can’t settle on wedding arrangements to Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid. He fears she may back out: Their best friends Hazel and Tim are divorced, and the marriage of Gemma’s parents is challenged by her mother’s chemo. When Pakistani lawyer Naz Malik turns up dead three months after his white wife Sandra disappeared, there are rumors that she ran off with another bloke. Would Sandra have abandoned the daughter she doted on? Did Naz, who loved his wife and child, commit suicide? Arranging temporary custody for the Maliks’ toddler, Charlotte, Gemma becomes obsessed with figuring out why Sandra vanished and Naz died. She’s hampered by Narcotics, which has been watching Sandra’s druggie brothers for years and doesn’t want Gemma interfering. That doesn’t stop her, and she gets a concussion for her troubles. Suspects include a former agent for Sandra’s artwork, a restaurateur whose missing nephew was to testify at his corruption trial and the owner of a private club whose wealthy members fancy very young girls. More complications arise when a tabloid-newspaper baron susses out facts the Yard is not ready to release, Gemma’s sister piles on guilt about the wedding and Charlotte seems headed for a truly unsuitable family placement.
Despite a smattering of East End history and racial discord, this is really a study of what makes relationships work or fail, thoughtfully unfolded by a dependable pro (Water Like a Stone, 2007, etc.).