When Whitney Talbot offers Tess Monaghan a job, Tess is inclined to brush her best friend off. Even though the Talbots have more money than God, and even though helping Whitney find and punish the cyber-perv who’d been stalking her teenaged cousin landed the avenging Tess (In a Strange City, 2001, etc.) in anger-management therapy, Tess insists, “You don’t owe me.” Besides, the consortium sponsoring the project includes not only the Talbot Foundation, Safehouse, Baltimore’s Kids, and New Solutions, but the William Tree Foundation, whose director, Luisa O’Neal, once paid a death-row inmate to confess to a murder committed by her son and also, Tess suspects, engineered the hit-and-run that killed Tess’s boyfriend Jonathan Ross, a reporter who knew more than was good for him. Still, the actual job—revisiting domestic abuse murders that have been back-burnered by local police—appeals to Tess, so she maps out a road trip through small-town Maryland, only to find the project itself a puzzle. Tiffany Gunts’s murder seems to have been thoroughly investigated by the Frederick police; the fire that killed Hazel Legetti was most likely set by accident; and Julie Carter is still alive. By the time she gets to North East, scene of Lucy Fancher’s decapitation, she’s ready to quit—until obsessed ex-cop Carl Dewitt helps her put the pieces together in a terrifying new way.
Tess never stops searching—for answers, for justice, and for self-perception—and Lippman never quits until she’s captured each breathtaking moment of her heroine’s dizzying trip.