Bannister takes a break from her Brodie Farrell/Daniel Hood series (Breaking Faith, 2005, etc.) for an authentic London nightmare: a father’s desperate search for the daughter who vanished six years ago.
There was no reason the day of Cassie Schofield’s clarinet exam should have been any different from any other. But after her father, a Birmingham architect, dropped her off in front of her music school, she seems to have been swallowed up. Laurence and Jan Schofield have had six years since then to wonder whether she’s dead or alive, whether she ran off on a whim or planned to escape in advance, whether she left willingly or under duress. So when their son Tom glimpses someone he thinks might be his sister on a documentary about the London homeless, it’s not surprising that Jan can’t face the possibility that her daughter is still alive. “I tried love,” she spits at her husband. “See where it got me!” Laurence, unable to let go of this last hope, follows the trail to London, where he swiftly learns just how mean the streets can be. Descending into the bowels of the underworld called the Tinderbox, he finds predatory kids, ruthless street gangs fighting deadly turf wars and dangers he literally can’t comprehend. Redemption comes from a wholly unexpected quarter.
The rabbit-hole world Bannister evokes is so relentlessly and convincingly sordid that her quietly hopeful ending seems nothing short of miraculous.