All the heartache, nightmare and sleuthing you could expect from a mother who sends her daughter off on a cruise she never returns from.
Shelby Sloan has worked herself up to the position of chief buyer of women’s apparel at the Philadelphia firm of Markson’s. But she still remembers how all-consuming it can be to have children at home when you’re struggling to make ends meet. So she gives her daughter Chloe, a physician’s receptionist, and her husband Rob Kendricks, the gift of a weeklong Caribbean cruise so that they can concentrate on each other without worrying about their son Jeremy, 4, whom Shelby’s volunteered to babysit. Then the unthinkable happens: Rob phones Shelby to say that Chloe has vanished. The assumption is that she fell overboard, but since no one saw her fall, the ship continued on for three hours after she was missed before turning back to look for her, and there’s little chance that she’ll ever be found, even though Shelby is more than willing to continue the search at her own expense. Investigators reviewing the evidence conclude that Chloe fell while she was drunk, and when Shelby contends that her daughter never drank, they produce abundant evidence that she did indeed. Stung by this revelation, Shelby finds that time doesn’t heal these wounds. Prodded by a visit from a representative of Overboard, whose members have lost relatives to suspicious shipboard accidents, she suspects first the cruise line, then Rob, Rob’s first wife Lianna Janssen, Chloe’s fellow-passenger Bud Ridley, and even her own sister, Dr. Talia Winter, of complicity in Chloe’s murder. No wonder she muses: “Maybe I am a crackpot.”
So skillful is MacDonald (From Cradle to Grave, 2010, etc.) in stirring the pot that although you never forget how artificial the setup is, you can relax and enjoy the artifice while you wait to find out which of Shelby’s paranoid suspicions will end up hitting the mark.