A thirty-seven-year old professor of French literature at Georgetown University, Caroline Cashion goes on a long and convoluted journey when a series of medical tests show she has a bullet lodged in her neck near her spine. She returns to her childhood home to learn that her parents arenít her birth parents.
Her real mother and father were murdered in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1979, when Caroline was three. Nothing in her life is as it seems, including the bullet still lodged in her neck. Caroline is compelled to request a leave from her job, returning to the place of her birth.
She hopes to ferret out the details of the murders and speak to anyone who might have information about her parents, Boone and Sadie Rawson Smith. Her stable, single academic life turns into a mad quest for answers about the night of the murders and any personal details that may enlighten her.
A short article in the
Atlanta-Constitution brings unexpected results: a meeting with the detective assigned to the case,
and an introduction to her fatherís college friend and tennis partner. It also gives notice to a killer: should the bullet be removed, its particular markings can lead police to the culprit. The fact that Caroline looks like her birth mother adds a frisson of interest to her tale. When it becomes necessary to remove the bullet, the inherent connection between gun and shooter renders Caroline the potential target of the person who killed her parents in 1979. During the course of an investigation that plays havoc with both Carolineís career and self-image, she travels from Washington to Atlanta, eventually to Europe via Switzerland and Paris, face to face at last with the truth that left her an orphan. Academia seems far away when Caroline faces life-changing decisions that will lead to an obscure future.
Clearly comfortable in academia in her field of French literature, the protagonist, following the crooked path of a hidden past, finds it necessary to educate her readers on everything from the behavior of a mother tiger in the wild when her cub is threatened to the Atlanta murder statistics in 1979. While this information may be occasionally helpful, there a surfeit of details--about a hundred pages--robbing the character of Caroline Cashion of any real emotional depth save shock, fear,
and anger, all rather predictable reactions to the unfolding of such a bizarre plot. Other than the truth about who killed Boone and Sadie Rawlins, there is no tension here, no real mystery. Caroline
is ever clear-headed, logical, and prepared, few of her actions provoked by passion. This lack of substantive human context precludes an investment in the protagonist or the strange course her life takes after the discovery of the bullet lodged near her spine.