When wealthy 34-year-old Jinx Kinsley wakes up in the Nightingale Clinic, she is suffering from a temporary memory loss and is informed her current injuries are a result of a suicide attempt. Although tragedy has shadowed her life, Jinx is an independent, successful businesswoman who has gone to great lengths to distance herself from her controlling father, Adam Kingsley, a self-made man whose reputation is tainted by violence.
Jinx slowly recovers from injuries received in the accident, revealing a troubled background and a severely dysfunctional family - a drunken stepmother, and two half-brothers who are gamblers and cocaine addicts, the bane of their father’s existence.
Soon after her hospitalization, a series of people intrude into Jinx’s room: the brother of her best friend, Meg; surly step-brothers, Miles and Fergus; assorted detectives, not all of them kindly disposed to the injured woman; another patient who loves to share hospital gossip; and her doctor, Alan Protheroe. Jinx doesn’t trust any of them, resisting all attempts to get her to explain the suicide attempt or the current whereabouts of Meg Harris and Leo Wallader, Jinx’s fiancé.
Walters uses a technique common to her mystery thrillers, press clippings and police reports that fill in facts the characters do not address. In this manner, information is revealed that affects events at hand but also serves to add complications to the unfolding story. Indeed, the mystery surrounding Jinx’s near-death in a blatantly suicidal car crash is exacerbated by facts that fly in the face of police assumptions.
Jinx has broken with her fiancé, Meg and Leo have run off to France to avoid family repercussions, and no one has been in contact with them for days. Yet Jinx is relieved, certain that the marriage to Leo would have been a terrible mistake, as was her first marriage ten years earlier to Russell Landy, a much older man. Russell was bludgeoned to death in his art gallery, and his murderer has never been found. When two mutilated bodies are later discovered then identified as Harris and Wallader, a critical link is made between their brutal deaths and that of Jinx’s husband a decade earlier.
Apparently the only person who holds the key to all three murders is Jinx: she recovers fragments of information, but only enough to stoke her fears that her father is behind all three murders. She resists any attempt to force her cooperation, but that doesn’t deter an aggressive detective who is convinced she is guilty, or at least collaborative.
Menace stalks Jinx at the hospital - her doctor is attacked, and her very selfish brothers have a way of intruding on her solitude, alternately railing against their lack of resources and demanding assistance from the half-sister who remains a target of a clever killer: “Fear. It hits me suddenly and I start shivering.”
The murderer is no farther than Jinx’s mind, the cast of suspects an unattractive bunch of opportunists. Vague memories surface in the form of nightmares, terrifying Jinx, who realizes that she holds the key to the mystery. By the time the crimes are resloved, the murders have bred more violence and family upheaval, leaving Jinx, the survivor, to repair the broken pieces of her life with Doctor Protheroe’s patient assistance.