On Easter weekend in 1975 two sisters disappeared. Eleven year old Heather Bethany and her 15-year-old sister, Sunny, had gone to the mall, Security Mall, and vanished without a trace although there would be rumors, "...sightings of the girls as far away as Georgia, bogus ransom demands, fears of cults and counterculturists. After all, Patty Hearst had been taken just the year before. Kidnapping was big in the seventies."
Time passes, some thirty years, and a woman flees the scene of a traffic accident. Later she's found wandering, apparently deranged, without any money or identification. She's taken to St. Agnes Hospital, checked in as a Jane Doe because if she knows who she is she refuses to say.
Thus begins Edgar Award winning author Laura Lippman's riveting story about a family, once a strong, loving unit or were they?
Detective Kevin Infante is dispatched to the hospital to question the mysterious woman. He doesn't go eagerly as Infante is a tough cop, cynical, a memorable character who views the world and many of its inhabitants with a jaundiced eye. When the woman still refuses to speak his solution is to send her to jail.
Kay Sullivan, the social worker at St. Agnes, is the one person who befriends the woman, and when the woman says, "I'm going to say a name. It's a name you'll know," Kay is convinced Heather Bethany has surfaced after some three decades. But Infante doesn't believe this for a minute.
How to prove whether she is Heather or not? The police decide finding the mother of the Bethany girls is their only hope. But, would a mother recognize her daughter after this length of time?
Lippman who was a news reporter at the Baltimore Sun again sets her story in Baltimore, a city she obviously loves and knows well. Her narrative is meticulously crafted, moving in time from the day the girls disappeared to the present time. As scenes change readers are made aware of what the parents went through following the loss of their daughters, their attempts to cope and the final impact on them.
This author creates some of the most vivid characters to be found on a page, and again presents a story that haunts.
- Gail Cooke