In Preston’s debut novel, a tough, wounded woman discovers that in helping others, she can also help herself make peace with great family loss.
Daphne Mayfield sits in a park contemplating the upcoming anniversaries of her father’s suicide and her murdered sister’s birthday. Her boyfriend’s children, poisoned by a tough divorce, are making her life difficult, and their dog is facing surgery. Suddenly, an old woman darts out of the bushes, asking for help; giving her name as Minerva Watts, she claims she's being kidnapped and robbed. When a younger woman ushers her into a car, it seems clear that the old woman must suffer from dementia, but Daphne finds herself unable to forget the encounter. Soon enough, her decision to uncover the truth leads to her arrest, but she refuses to turn away from someone who might be in trouble, driven by her own tragic losses to try and make a difference. With the help of her boyfriend, Vic, her best friend, Thea, and one sympathetic police officer, she simultaneously searches for Minerva and for people who were part of her sister’s past, hoping she can find answers to both mysteries. In the end, the most fascinating and successful aspect of the novel is the character of Daphne herself. Incongruously, she's a roofer by trade, and the stories of how she pursues this unorthodox career give us insight into her stubborn, strong, and empathetic personality. Unfortunately, the mystery of Minerva Watts, intended to drive the plot, is not particularly interesting; rather, the story of Daphne’s past should have taken center stage. She is both flawed and interesting, and her relationships with Vic, Thea, Vic’s children, and her mother are well-developed and believable.
Read it for the characters, but don’t expect much from the mystery/thriller.