Blackmail, murder, and cybercrime fuel West’s (Sarah’s War, 2019, etc.) third mystery-series installment.
Emma Streat is preparing to leave snowy Boston for a romantic getaway to a Caribbean island with Lord Andrew Rodale when she receives an urgent phone call from her godmother, wealthy octogenarian Caroline Vogt. The older woman is being blackmailed, and she wants Emma to come to New York City immediately. Emma arrives at Caroline’s sumptuous Fifth Avenue apartment that evening and learns that her godmother has already paid the blackmailer. Caroline is convinced that she knows who the culprit is: her first ex-husband, Pierre Hallam, who’s the only living person who knows a secret about her—that she gave a boy up for adoption long ago. She wants to hire a private security agency to hunt him down. The next night, someone breaks into Caroline’s apartment and tries to strangle her in her sleep, leaving her close to death. From her hospital bed, she extracts a promise from Emma that she will go to France, find Hallam, and confront him. Thus begins a twisty tale that treats readers to a tour of some of Europe’s more glamorous settings, complete with lushly detailed descriptions. Emma calls Andrew in England to reluctantly cancel their upcoming tropical tryst. Meanwhile, he’s been working with his French colleagues to bring down a nasty group of cybercriminals; Hallam, it seems, is already “a person of interest.” Soon, Emma’s life is in danger, as well. Although Emma is usually more of a connect-the-dots sleuth, West frequently places her in the midst of the action this time around. There are enough bad guys and red herrings that readers will suspect any new character that Emma encounters. Underlying the narrative is the complicated, poignant relationship between 48-year-old Emma and her elderly godmother. A second, seemingly divergent mystery plotline opens up when Emma accompanies Caroline to an art auction in Florence, Italy, but ultimately everything connects.
An enjoyable mix of suspense and glitz.