Daly’s first effort establishes her as a significant player, with gripping prose and a plot moving forward from the first chapter. In England’s Lake District in Troutbeck, Cumbria, Lisa Kallisto, working mother of three, barely has time to keep husband, children and job running smoothly—overtired, overwhelmed and overworked. No surprise, then, that she misses the last few words of best friend Kate at the end of a phone call on a hectic school morning—a phone call that will come back to haunt her when Kate’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Lucinda, goes missing the day after a sleepover she was meant to have with Lisa’s daughter, Sally. Lisa realizes too late that Lucinda should be with her. Almost twenty-four hours later, there is no sign of Kate’s daughter.
Devastated, Lisa goes to Kate’s home, unsure whether her friend will even want to see her. The distraught mother is in shock, barely able to communicate, but that doesn’t stop Kate’s sister, Alexa, from telling Lisa everything she has dreaded hearing: “Of course it would be all my fault. The woman who spread herself too thinly.” Overwhelmed with guilt, Lisa returns home to her husband, Joe, and three children, unable to tear her mind from worries about Lucinda. Going through the motions with her family, Lisa’s only thought is to find Lucinda, to repair the damage she has done to Kate. With word of other abductions nearby, the authorities are fearful that there is a serial perpetrator, Lucinda only the most recent victim.
Detective Constable Joanne Aspinall arrives on the scene prepared to investigate every detail of the last few days, checking out each person’s background or suspicious activities, from Kate and Guy Riverty, Lucinda’s parents, to the devastated Lisa Kallisto and her family, including Sally, Lucinda’s friend. Removed from the emotional drama swirling around the family, Joanne is thorough but compassionate, direct yet unrelenting in her questioning. Beyond the hype of media attention and exhausted search parties there is another figure, a self-contained, well-appointed man staking out his next victim, planning to add a new dimension to his seduction of unwitting young victims. Balancing the eerie calmness of the predator-at-large with the chaos around the Riverty household and Lisa’s obsession with all things Kate-related, Daly captures the unreality of the event, the horror of not knowing, the fear that Lucinda might be dead and Lisa’s inability to make peace with her mistake in spite of Joe’s best efforts.
This is a nightmare that might happen to anyone: the mistake of a moment shattering happiness and friendships, the annihilation of innocence through an act of violence. At the center of the story, Lisa is battered by her failure, the burden of a guilty secret and fears that a treasured friendship is ruined. While DC Aspinall—a character who stands on her own merits—investigates the whereabouts of the major players, Daly unravels the smooth fabric of small-town society, uncovering family dramas that suggest there is more pathology afoot than just the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old girl.
To be sure, the genteel façade of the well-to-do yields far more dysfunction than the messy household of a busy mother and wife who spends her days working for a charity that places unwanted animals in safe homes. Clearly, Lisa is an unsuspecting victim of time and circumstance, harried but not irresponsible, well-meaning if not organized, and loyal to a fault. She will have to face the consequences of her actions, both current and past, but what she discovers in her urgency to restore Lucinda to her family is deeply unsettling, an ending to leave you reeling. Daly definitely makes her bones in this first effort. I can’t wait to read her second!