In O’Day’s debut thriller, a Texas nurse risks her career—and her well-being—when she looks into mysterious infant deaths at a local hospital.
Flora has been at Gulf Regional in Corpus Christi for only a year, but she knows the hospital’s recent infant mortality rate is unusually high. Most of the mothers who’ve lost infants are illegal immigrants with no prenatal care. One of these women, Estella Hernandez, confronts Flora outside the hospital, claiming her baby is still alive and that someone stole him. An empathetic Flora promises to help and, checking the morgue, finds no record of Estella’s child or the name of another deceased infant. She confides in fellow nurse and friend Jaymee but is reluctant to tell anyone else, including her boyfriend, Dean, a hospital supervisor. Police are out of the question as well, as they’re likely to threaten Estella with deportation. Flora surmises that the financially strapped hospital is selling babies but hopes her snooping won’t result in her termination. Soon she faces another menace: A truck tailgates her late one night, and someone slips a threatening note under her condo door. The danger mounts with a more direct assault against Flora, who’s evidently too close to a discovery. O’Day deftly crafts tense scenes at Gulf Regional as Flora sneaks into the morgue and a colleague’s office. The medical environment is appropriately spooky: The elevator is a “large metal box,” the hallway a “virtual ghost town.” Act 2 centers on Flora in overt peril; it’s less atmospheric but still engaging as the protagonist continues to unravel the mystery. Flora is appealing, earning sympathy with her woeful backstory. Her jailed mom and absent father effectively left her with no family and understandable trust issues. Romance, meanwhile, is gleefully complicated; Dean thinks he has competition from “strikingly handsome” officer Rob, a cop Flora may be able to rely on.
Flora’s compassion and tenacity make her a savvy and series-worthy detective.