On a run through the early morning mists of Geneva, Abby Monroe watches in horror as a woman falls from a balcony to her death. Was she pushed?
Stunned, Abby’s eyes are drawn to a gorgeous jeweled bracelet just as a man, a man who could be a murderer, leans over the balcony, sees her and gives chase. Strangely, when Abby notifies the police, the body is nowhere to be found. So, Abby puts the mysterious event behind her and continues on to Peshawar, Pakistan, to document vaccine statistics for the United Nations. Her sleep is filled with nightmares, and her bathroom crawls with cockroaches, yet Abby pulls herself together and begins to work with women and children desolated by natural and human disasters. Gately (Lipstick in Afghanistan, 2010) vividly depicts the appalling conditions of refugee camps, as well as the stories of women who have escaped sexual slavery, yet her heroine’s naïveté strains credulity. Despite having been dumped by her long-term boyfriend, lost a dream job and willingly accepted a job in a place even the U.N. euphemistically terms an unstable security situation (not to mention having witnessed a possible murder), Abby implicitly trusts everyone she meets. Her days are quickly populated by the refugees, Hana (the surly maid whose husband sold their child) and Najeela (the administrative assistant who wants to marry Lars, not an Afghan man chosen by her family). Into this world of women struggling to negotiate a world of terrorism and social oppression, Nick Sinclair arrives. Investigating conditions at the camps and allegations of human trafficking, Nick wants to interview Abby for a sidebar story. Although she inexplicably distrusts Nick, Abby has no one else to turn to when she finds the bracelet.
Despite menacing characters and real atrocities, this mystery deflates.