It’s been 12 years since four-year-old Timmy Cable disappeared from a Norfolk beach. But nothing that’s passed since—not his father Jack’s fame as a polar explorer, not the beautiful farmhouse in Grantchester his mother Olivia lovingly tends, not even their pride in older sister Catherine’s success as a dancer and Cambridge student—has helped to ease the Cables’ pain at not knowing their beloved son’s fate. Then Olivia finds a musician named Liam on a Cambridge street corner who looks, sounds, even smells like her lost son. The Cables hire private eye Laura Principal (Nights in White Satin, 1999, etc.) to look into Liam’s past, but not—as Jack constantly warns—to “heavy” him. So perhaps it’s out of caution that Laura studiously avoids the customary tools of her trade in her search for Liam’s identity. No DNA testing, no questioning people who might know him, no following him home to see where he lives. Instead, she hangs around the Cables’ country estate, watching as Olivia tries to draw close to the wary adolescent, driving him around the property in Jack’s vintage Jaguar, cooking him tempting meals, even filling the long-drained family swimming pool for him. But after the Cables are secure enough that Timmy has returned to reopen their Norfolk summer home, Laura finds more clues than she bargained for about little boy lost and teenager found.
Heavy on angst and short on legwork, Laura’s latest explores human suffering for 20-odd chapters before springing surprises like jack-in-the-boxes for the last three.