Well-oiled Picoult sets her latest expertly devised search-and-rescue tale in rural New Hampshire, where a kidnapping case is uncovered 28 years too late.
As usual, Picoult (My Sister’s Keeper, 2004, etc.) spins a terrifically suspenseful tale by developing just the right human-interest elements to make a workable story. Single mom Delia Hopkins works with the local Wexton police and a bloodhound named Greta to find lost children. Delia’s close relationship with her divorced, 60-ish father, Andrew, who runs a senior-citizens’ home, grows strained when he’s suddenly arrested on kidnapping charges. The victim is Delia herself, named Bethany Matthews before her father fled with her from a drunken Mexican mother in Arizona. For 28 of her 32 years, Delia has believed her mother was dead. With Andrew extradited to Phoenix, the strange history of the case unravels, complicated by the choice of Delia’s fiancé, Eric (father of daughter Sophie), as Andrew’s lawyer and the assignment of her childhood buddy Fitz to cover the case for his newspaper. Picoult is a thorough, perceptive writer who deliberately presents alternating viewpoints, so that the truth seems constantly to be shifting. When Delia finally meets the attractive, remarried Elise Vasquez, she can’t quite vilify a woman who has been sober for many years and works as a curandera (healer). Her father’s story is both suspect and understandable, especially in light of his horrific treatment in prison, caught up in the violence of rival gangs. The magnetic Eric is a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon when stressed, while dependable, silent lover Fitz waits in the wings for his chance. Meanwhile, Delia and Sophie make a fascinating digression into the mythical world of the local Hopi tribe. At times, Picoult goes over the top, allowing Sophie to get lost so that Greta can find her and, at the eleventh hour, inserting into the trial the possibility of Delia’s sexual abuse .
An experienced novelist takes her sweet time to rich rewards: overall, an affecting saga, nicely handled.