The routine murder of a single mom is far from routine for Cmdr. Richard Christie and the members of Pittsburgh PD’s homicide squad.
The leads are slender in art teacher Maggie Brown’s fatal stabbing. The cops have a witness who heard her quarreling shortly before her death with a man who insisted against all the evidence that he was the father of her son, Matthew. They even have a physical description of the suspect and the suspect’s car. But the witness is Matthew Brown, who’s not even 8 years old. Since the murder has orphaned Matt, Christie scrambles to find a new foster home for him, then squirms when, just as Matt’s settling in comfortably with professors Janet Gabriel and Arthur Morris, his biological father, long-ago sperm donor Ziad Zacour, turns up in Baltimore, and he and his pregnant fiancee seem like the ideal family for Matt. Meanwhile, Maggie’s killer, troubled Nadal Brown, watches Matt obsessively and schemes to snatch the boy he’s convinced is his son away from Jan and Arthur. By the time Nadal finally makes his move, George (Simple, 2012, etc.) will have used the conventions of the police procedural to explore an unusually far-flung web, not of suspects, but of ordinary people whose lives the murder and kidnapping have touched, from Christie’s distraught wife, Marina Benedict, to detectives Colleen Greer and John Potocki, who pick this swell time to fall in love.
Nobody in the cast gets much sleep, and neither will the reader, till it all concludes with a happy ending stippled with the kind of sadness that rarely comes out in genre fiction.