Since her debut in 1997, Laura Lippman has won virtually every major prize in the mystery-writing field and earned the highest critical praise for her Tess Monaghan series, which has been called "spectacular" (New York Times), "terrific fun" (Washington Post), "a delight" (Baltimore Sun), and "the best mystery writing around" (Village Voice). Now Lippman steps outside her series to deliver her darkest, most troubling tale -- and vaults into the crime-fiction elite with a haunting story of murder, fate's accidents, and the stories we tell ourselves when we try to make sense of the unthinkable.
On a July afternoon two little girls, banished from a birthday party, take a wrong turn onto an unfamiliar Baltimore street -- and encounter an abandoned stroller with a baby inside it. Dutiful Alice Manning and unpredictable Ronnie Fuller only want to be helpful, to be good. People like children who are good, Alice thinks. But whatever the girls' real intentions, things go horribly awry and three families are destroyed.
Seven years later Alice and Ronnie are heading home again -- only separately this time, their fragile bond long shattered, their secrets still closely kept. Advised to avoid each other, they enter a world where they essentially have no past. In exchange, they are promised a fresh start, the chance to mold their own future.
That promise is broken when a child disappears, under disturbingly similar circumstances. And the adults in Alice's and Ronnie's lives -- the parents, the lawyers, the police -- realize that they must now confront the shattering truths they couldn't face seven years earlier. Or another mother will lose her child.
Homicide detective Nancy Porter was a rookie cop when she solved the original case with a bit of freakish luck -- and almost derailed her own career. Adept at finding the small things that can make or break a homicide case, now she must master the larger picture in order to understand where guilt truly lies. For no one is innocent in this world. Not even the children.
"Interesting," the ophthalmologist said, rolling away from Cynthia Barnes in his wheeled chair, like a water bug skittering for cover when the lights went on in the middle of the night.
"Not exactly my favorite word in a doctor's office." Cynthia tried to sound lighthearted. The metal apparatus was cold and heavy on her face, and although it wasn't literally attached, she couldn't help feeling as if she were in a vise. Each flick of the doctor's wrist -- Better here? Or here? Here? Or here? -- seemed to tighten the machine's grip on her.
"Good interesting," he said, rolling back to her. "Now, is it clearer with the first one or" -- he flipped something, inserted something, she had never been sure what he was doing -- "or this one."
"Could I see those again?" She sounded tentative, even to her ears, which shamed her. Cynthia still remembered what she was like back when she was always sure about things.
"Absolutely. This one" -- the ...
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