A missing girl leads ghostbuster Phineas Fox to nefarious activity near the start of World War II.
Phin is at a neighborhood party when his host, Toby Tallis, confesses concern about his cousin Arabella, who sent an e-mail saying she was looking forward to the party but hasn’t shown up. Calls to her go directly to voicemail. The duo visits her flat in Pimlico, where Toby is disturbed to find a 1940s portrait of a woman named Christa Klein, whose beauty haunts Phin but whose nefarious activities ruined the Tallis family. Arabella isn’t there, but Phin and Toby find a note from her godfather, Stefan Cain, who’s Christa’s brother. Siblings Margot and Marcus Mander have grown up “surrounded by [the] hatred” produced by Christa, who they believe murdered their father. Christa’s story goes back to Germany in 1939, where she was a child enjoined by her mother, Giselle Klein, to protect Stefan, her younger brother. As the Nazis encroach on them, the family attempts to find a refuge at Gothic Wewelsberg Castle, the reported location of Mander Senior’s murder. Rayne’s narrative weaves three strands together: the story of the Klein family and Christa’s supposed crime; Phin’s parallel investigation of the phantom Christa, who has enchanted him; and the eerie tale of siblings Margot and Marcus, whose relationship has degenerated into a sad codependency under the shadow of Christa’s alleged crime. All of which is not to forget the missing Arabella.
The second installment of the series (Death Notes, 2017, etc.) at first presents a murky, multilayered picture but masterfully draws out the suspense by progressively revealing the underlying truths.