A troubled FBI agent must find a missing teen while coming to terms with her father’s impending death in the pseudonymous Ellis’ satisfying debut.
Special Agent Elsa Myers of the New York City Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Unit is good at her job, but it doesn’t quite explain why she’s pulled away from her father’s bedside to join in the hunt for Ruby Haverstock, a missing 17-year-old girl. Elsa is partnered with former NYPD vice detective Alexei “Lex” Cole, who’s new to missing persons cases. Lex turns out to be an able partner, but he irritates as much as intrigues Elsa, who isn’t one to get close to anyone—and is hiding her own secrets. Over the course of about a week, Elsa and Lex’s search takes them into the mind of a man with a dark mission, one they must decipher before it’s too late. Ellis writes with a lyrical economy, alternating between glimpses into Elsa’s fraught childhood and the case at hand. Elsa loves her father but resents him for not shielding her from the vicious punishments meted out by her mother, who was killed when Elsa was 16. The insights into Elsa’s pain and her crippling compulsion to cut herself, honed while hiding from her mother's violent outbursts, are particularly affecting: “She scratches every neon-pulsing scar on her legs, hips, stomach, arms. The pictogram of her failures heat to the hard edges of her fingernails, the crude blade-drawn outlines of sometimes something—a closed eye with lashes, a bird able to fly away, a marble capable of rolling away unseen, the number 7 because she once thought it was lucky—and often nothing, just scratches, cuts tallied on her skin.”
Readers will savor getting to know this singular heroine, a cop who feels the call of a lost child as sharply as the knife’s edge that she uses to score her own skin.