An architect ventures out on her own to find a missing 12-year-old girl when cops zero in on a renowned—and possibly innocent—colleague in this thriller.
Iris Reid faces a full schedule, designing a town house and getting ready to teach a class at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. She meets visiting professor Xander DeWitt, a well- known Dutch architect, just prior to the fall semester. They share a meal or two, with Iris relishing the man’s devotion to his craft and hoping chef/cafe owner boyfriend Luc doesn’t misconstrue her fascination with Xander. But when young Lara Kurjak suddenly vanishes, Iris becomes unwittingly embroiled in the case. Cops, for starters, fixate on Xander, whose office Lara had recently paid a visit, and Iris may be his alibi. On the night in question, she had walked her basset hound Sheba in Xander’s neighborhood, seeing him at home when momentarily peering into his window. Her student Jasna Sidran, meanwhile, has been helping Lara escape her abusive father, Ivano, who plans to force his daughter into an arranged marriage in Bosnia when she turns 13. Lara’s unexplained disappearance from Jasna’s place seems to confirm that someone’s abducted her. Iris, believing cops may be wrong about Xander, investigates but soon realizes that the fellow architect she admires could very well be the culprit. Cory (Conundrum, 2012) gleefully breezes through subplots and twists with a resourceful protagonist at the helm. Iris’ position of pseudo-detective is organic; her motives fluctuate (prove Xander’s innocence or find Lara) but there’s always a credible rationale pushing her forward. Supporting characters are outstanding, from self-proclaimed “saintly friend” Ellie and attorney brother Sterling to tactless reporter Budge Buchanan, who makes a shockingly good sidekick. Further complications ensue, including a potential reason for Iris to distrust Luc. Readers may question some of Iris’ choices. She, for example, doesn’t tell police about a suspicious van for fear that Jasna’s actions will get her student visa revoked—even though it’s presumably the kidnapper’s vehicle. But with Iris herself oscillating between belief in Xander and leeriness, the ending is bound to surprise most.
The heroine possesses the competence and charm of any other literary private investigator, with a lively band of characters by her side.