After losing his memory, high-profile investigator Nick Petrov returns recklessly to the dangerous case he was working on.
Pricey p.i. Nick (his claim to fame is a TV movie in which he was portrayed by Armand Assante) accepts the small case of missing teenager Amanda Rummel because something touches him in the demeanor of Amanda’s distraught mother, Liza. But from the beginning of his investigation, he finds that Liza, who works for Candyland Escorts, is less than candid with him. For starters, Amanda’s friend Beth says that Amanda claimed to be adopted, her real mother mysteriously killed. This facet of the case resonates with Nick, who’s divorced and has a shaky relationship with son Dmitri. Ex-wife Katherine is still bitter about the breakup and Nick’s affair with police chief Elaine Kostelnik (Kim Delaney in the TV movie). Bad headaches, unlike anything Nick has ever experienced, periodically interfere with his work, but he methodically searches Liza’s house while she’s away and makes copious lists of his conclusions and theories. He learns that Liza had an older sister who died years earlier, and his guess is that she was Amanda’s biological mother. He finds the girl but blacks out in the middle of explaining his identity and mission. He wakes up in a hospital with no memory and a diagnosis of brain hemorrhage. After getting his bearings, he realizes that the fastest way (maybe the only way) to get his memory back is to retrace the steps of his aborted investigation. Abraham draws extra tension from dicey scenes that put the reader two steps ahead of the oblivious Nick. There’s also an offbeat romance with his African-American nurse, Billie (he’s drawn to the clacking of her beaded braids), as Nick’s splintered probe runs through a large cast of unpredictable characters, including a chain-smoking madam, volatile p.i., and skittish volleyball coach.
Abrahams (Their Wildest Dreams, 2003, etc.) creates palpable empathy for the bruised Nick, and his pitch-perfect prose is a joy.