Putting her series characters Tony Hill and Carol Jordan on the back burner temporarily, McDermid (The Retribution) delivers a solid stand-alone combining the high-stakes hunt for a missing child with the dark underbelly of celebrity culture. Usually content to work behind the scenes, ghostwriter Stephanie Harker's world changes when she signs on to write reality-TV star Scarlett Higgins's autobiography. A brash former contestant from the fictional British show Goldfish Bowl, Scarlett has made a career out of being outspoken. Stephanie and Scarlett develop an unlikely friendship, and Stephanie grows attached to Scarlett's son, Jimmy, whose father is a fame-crazed DJ. When Scarlett discovers she's dying of cancer, the question of Jimmy's future looms large. Since McDermid opens with a chilling scene in which five-year-old son Jimmy, traveling with Stephanie, is snatched from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, it's clear whom Scarlett ultimately chooses to look after her son. Stephanie and Scarlett's often tumultuous relationship is glimpsed in flashbacks, juxtaposed with the present-day search for Jimmy, hampered both by the fact that he's not Stephanie's son and the slickness of a kidnapper who leaves no tracks. Though Stephanie is quickly forgettable, larger-than-life Scarlett is a chance for McDermid to explore a different kind of ugliness than she tackles in her series novels. (Sept. 2012)
Reviewed on: 06/10/2013 Release date: 10/01/2012 Genre: Fiction
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