A romance and a mystery told in tandem.
The story begins with a cryptic conversation between Arthur Cubeck, dying in the hospital, and a female visitor with whom he has long shared a guilty secret. He has contacted a young woman named Sophie with a request to come see him so he can tell her the secret the female visitor wishes him to keep. Clearly, his visitor wishes he would die before telling, and in fact, he does. Sophie, adopted as an infant by a woman who loved her and gave her a good life, is more concerned with mourning the death of her adoptive mother than in finding out about her birth mother. The invitation from Arthur to visit and find out about her origins is intriguing, but she is ambivalent, and when she finally makes up her mind to visit this stranger, she is too late. The trip is not wasted, however, as she finds herself attracted to the doctor who promises to look into whether Arthur left any written communication for her. He also returns her romantic interest. Arthur’s lawyer asks Sophie to attend the reading of the will, and the fact that Arthur leaves her some property, along with the explanation that he owes her much, causes her and his son to wonder if he was her father. This is a clue worth following. Another clue is the stranger found dead with photos of Sophie in his possession. Soon, the small town is abuzz with speculation about Sophie, and eventually, she discovers the trauma of her conception and the reason Arthur, not a perpetrator but a witness, felt so guilty.
The novel is similar in plot and structure to episodes of the television series Cold Case, whose fans will find its peregrinations most intriguing.