Overwhelmed by complications arising from her unplanned third pregnancy, a Hertfordshire housewife flees her home for the comforts of an upscale Arizona resort and lands smack in the middle of a fictionalization of the JonBenét Ramsey case, which quickly swallows her up.
Patrick Burrows is a good provider and a good man, but he really doesn’t want any more children. So Cara Burrows runs away from home—there’s no better way to put it—and sinks a third of the family’s savings into a two-week stay at the Swallowtail Resort and Spa, which feels like the capital of “America: Land of Hyperbolic Overstatement.” In a place dedicated to fulfilling her every whim, night clerk Riyonna Briggs accidentally gives her a key to the wrong room, and the conversation she overhears from the bathroom she thinks is her own plunges her into the case of Melody Chapa, whose parents were convicted of her murder in Philadelphia seven years ago even though her body was never found. Cara becomes convinced that the girl she overheard is Melody, and she’s not the only one: regular guest Lilith McNair has been announcing sightings of Melody every year even though nobody pays any attention. Will anyone pay attention to Cara? Tearful Riyonna is no help; the rest of the Swallowtail staff treats Cara to a series of simpering brushoffs; and Lilith McNair seems even crazier in their sole one-on-one conversation. Only sharp-tongued florist Tarin Fry and Zellie, her daughter and sparring partner, take Cara seriously, and their interest doesn’t prevent either Riyonna or Cara from vanishing as competing parties—the variously compromised local cops, the FBI, the TV host of Justice with Bonnie who played a key role in getting Naldo and Annette Chapa convicted all those years ago—paw the ground and look accusingly at each other while Cara’s peril deepens.
Hannah (Closed Casket, 2016, etc.) continues her quest to identify all the reassuring certitudes mystery novels take for granted and demonstrate how much fun it is to toss them overboard. There’s no point in objecting to the coincidences and implausibilities required to launch this brilliant nightmare: resistance is futile.