Tucker’s contemporary thriller is set in New York City--specifically Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where wealthy humanitarian Maggie Sparkes confronts the death of her childhood friend, Celine Gonzalez. Growing up, the girls were inseparable, although Celine’s mother, Rosa, was the housekeeper for the Sparkes family. While the vast financial disparity didn’t deter the youngsters from forming a deep friendship, they are eventually divided by geography and aspiration after the divorce of Maggie’s parents. As an adult, Maggie shuns the influence of her family’s energy company, devoting herself to humanitarian efforts, investing in projects in poverty-riddled countries overseas. Celine’s sudden death is a shock--as is the official finding of suicide.
Maggie approaches Celine’s death from the perspective of one who intimately knows another, positive her best friend would never take her own life, especially while Celine’s mother is suffering from ill health: Celine wouldn’t desert her mother in a time of need. Both Rosa and Celine have embraced Maggie as “family” from the beginning, offering a sense of belonging her distant parents never could. Unfortunately, Maggie learns there is little she can say now that will sway the decision of the detective assigned to the case.
Returning to the tiny apartment filled with Celine’s collection of objects purchased from estate and garage sales, Maggie searches through her friend’s personal effects before beginning the arduous task of packing up the collections before she returns to Africa. It has been Celine’s lifetime dream to study at the Hollingsworth Institute of Art and become an appraiser for a prestigious auction house. The shelves in her apartment are filled with carefully purchased treasures, each meticulously photographed and catalogued. So close to the career she has worked so hard to achieve, Maggie is convinced Celine would never kill herself.
Given the unusual circumstances--a close friendship between two women from radically different backgrounds, one very wealthy, the other diligently pursuing an unusual career without financial assistance--Tucker constructs a believable scenario in an unfolding drama.
A relationship begun in childhood collides with brutal reality as Maggie discovers, piece by heartbreaking piece, the nature of Celine’s private life, including the intimate secrets hidden in her diaries, from the resentment of a friend who never has to struggle, to the pressure of never having enough money, from her mother’s serious illness to a romance that may have broken her heart: “This man was once my salvation. Now he may be my ruin.”
Various characters fill in the puzzle Maggie so frantically tries to assemble: Hans, a grieving coworker as passionate about collecting artifacts as Celine; Ruby Cummings, an
81-year-old neighbor who sees and hears everything that goes on in the apartment building; Grady, the mellow apartment manager who offers assistance to Maggie--and emotional respite from an exhausting investigation; devastatingly handsome hedge fund manager Jace Everett, son of a
senator; and the most essential person to Maggie’s endeavor to find the truth, Private Investigator Doug Murray, who digs into personal histories and events that expose what really happened to Celine Gonzalez. Still reeling from the loss of her friend, Maggie learns about Celine’s experiences in New York, from her relentless pursuit of success to the tragic night of her death. Finding temporary solace in the arms of a lover, Maggie faces certain death at the hands of a killer--ubut she never sees it coming.