A decade after the disappearance of an elephant researcher, her 13-year-old daughter, a washed-up private detective and a has-been psychic team up to find answers.
As in Lone Wolf, (2012) Picoult uses fiction to illustrate the plight of animals who are being decimated by humans, in this case elephants who are endangered by everything from poachers to circuses. Teenage Jenna, daughter of missing-scientist Alice, launches a search for her mother, who vanished from the hospital after being found unconscious on the grounds of a New Hampshire elephant refuge where a co-worker was fatally trampled. Jenna's father, Thomas, has been in a psychiatric hospital since the incident, and she lives with her grandmother, who refuses to discuss Alice’s fate. Jenna shares narrative duties with three others: Virgil, a police detective–turned–drunken private eye whose law enforcement career crashed and burned as a result of the botched investigation into the trampling death; Serenity, a clairvoyant, who was a national celebrity until her spirit guides deserted her in the middle of the search for a senator’s kidnapped child; and Alice herself, who details past events leading up to the pivotal crisis. As a young graduate student doing fieldwork at an African game preserve, Alice studied the grieving rituals of elephants, which include revering the bones of departed ancestors and burying deceased loved ones with leaves and grass. In Africa, Alice recognizes a kindred spirit in a visitor, Thomas, who runs a New Hampshire sanctuary for abused elephants rescued from circuses and zoos. She joins him there, marries him, gives birth to Jenna and begins to question her husband's sanity. Thus the seeds are sewn for a thriller that involves noble pachyderms, adultery and a breathless chase across several states. The pages turn apace, though Virgil labors under too many noir clichés, and wisecracking Serenity seems to be on loan from a Susan Isaacs novel.
The ending borrows unforgivably from a source it would be equally unforgivable to reveal.