A cold case turns hot enough to burn lives to the ground.
DCI Robert McIntyre has come from the Cornwall town of Truro to spend Christmas with his brother’s family in London. Still depressed over the departure of his lover, Alison Kendall, whose first novel has become a bestseller, he finds his brother's house empty—David and his family have been called away—and is startled when Iris Flynn shows up on the doorstep in the middle of the night saying she's flown halfway around the world to help him find her daughter’s killer. The Flynns were living in Truro when their eldest daughter, Sophie, disappeared along with her nanny, Karen Peterson, more than a year earlier. Sophie's body was found in the river the next day, and Karen hasn't been seen since. Before this traumatic episode, Iris and Nick, her Australian husband, had led a peripatetic existence, moving from country to country: "It's Nick," Iris says. "The world is too small for him." It was in Oregon, their last stop before Britain, that they met Karen, who asked if she could come with them and help out with the kids. Now, unable to recover from Sophie’s death, Iris has left Nick and their two other daughters with her sister in Australia in a desperate bid to find the truth. The only new clue the police have is a psychic who claims to have had a vision of Karen in London. The police artist makes a sketch based on the psychic's description that Iris doesn’t think looks like Karen, but after watching hours of CCTV she picks her former nanny out of the crowd boarding a London train. The passport service, however, finds no record of a Karen Peterson ever having entered the U.K. Even though Iris has an estranged mother and brother in Cornwall, she winds up staying with McIntyre when they return to Truro; he feels desperately sorry for the woman whose life has been torn apart and finds her company comforting in his loneliness. Unable to forget Alison, he's taken aback when the case takes a strange and unsettling turn and involves his former love in a way he cannot ignore no matter how painful the results. At length more clues emerge, and when Iris does go to see her mother, a chance encounter brings the case to disconcerting new life.
The elegant writing, complex characters, and surprising conclusion of Thomas’ second (The English Boys, 2016) all add up to a fine mystery that will appeal to readers of Catriona McPherson’s psychological thrillers.