Brennan hones in on a solitary serial killer, a shattered marriage, and a life suffering under the weight of regret. On the hunt is Maxine Revere. Brennan’s devoted investigative reporter attempts to solve cold cases but, in the process, grates on the nerves of most cops. Max’s investigative juices flow after she gets a call from John Caldwell, her old college friend and ex-boyfriend, who tells her that his wife, Blair, is to stand trial for the murder of their only child, Peter. John desperately believes Blair is innocent. Ever loyal to her friend, Max agrees to fly to Scottsdale, admitting to herself that John’s story will be great fodder for her monthly crime show, Maximum Exposure.
The case is high profile: a wealthy mother killing her eight-year-old son. Everyone is under the microscope including John, a man Max has respected and even admired. But Peter’s brutal killing and Blair’s subsequent trial parallels three cold cases that have Max flying from New York to Phoenix, then on to San Diego and into the orbit of FBI agent Lucy Kincaid and Lucy’s ex-brother-in-law Andrew Stanton who lost his son, Justin, almost twenty years ago. There are many similarities to Peter’s murder, but without the police records and forensic reports, it will be next to impossible for Max to prove that the cases are linked. The first two homicides were unsolved. In the third, the father is in prison, while Peter’s case seems to be built on a frustrating collection of circumstantial evidence.
Brennan’s early chapters focus on Max as she attempts to piece together the night that Peter was murdered. Though she's drained and distracted by the dance she and her boyfriend, Nick, have been waltzing for the last four months, Max really wants to focus her energy on Justin Stanton. In her experience, the first victim is the most likely victim to have known the killer. Max also wants to give the three families closure and find justice for three little boys whose lives were taken too soon: “I won’t know if they’re connected until I dig deeper.” Law enforcement isn’t particularly interested in an almost 20-year cold case. Max has the time and resources to pursue Justin Stanton’s murder; she’s also convinced that more important people might talk to her because she isn’t a cop.
Max needs access to the retired detective who led the investigation. Enter Lucy Kincaid. Lucy has experience in complicated cases, although Max is initially reluctant to let the agent work with her--Max is always in the driver’s seat and she always has control of any situation. Max has an ego, and wants to work the case on her own terms. Twenty years is a long time. Max, however, is smart enough to realize that Lucy possesses a unique skill set and experience investigating serial killers. Max believes Lucy will pursue the cases with or without her. Consequently, she finds herself at loggerheads with the Kincaid family, who will do everything they can to stop her--particularly Lucy’s sister-in-law, Nell, and her older sister, Carina, who went through hell and back when she was itreated as the prime suspect in Justin’s murder.
Lucy agrees to work with Max after Max makes a promise to Sean Rogan, Lucy’s husband, to never dig around into his wife’s past. With Lucy’s family finally appeased, the women turn their focus to the four little boys: Justin, Tommy Porter, Chris Donovan, and nine months ago, Peter Caldwell. All were between the ages of seven and nine, and all were kidnapped from their bedrooms in the middle of the night while their parents were out. That the police did due diligence twenty years ago doesn’t mean they didn’t miss something: “I find it difficult to believe that one person can kill four children over such as length of time with such a long wait in between.”
Max and her media team begin doing the rounds, information drip-fed from the family’s memories until a picture begins to emerge: a suspected murderer who vanished while the families of the little boys have given up hope. It all points to a serial killer who has had long stretches, perhaps even years, to cool off. The manner of death has a distinct pattern: the care given to the bodies, the personal touch, and the fact that the fathers of the first three victims had been with their mistresses at the times of the murders. Max and Lucy know the importance of understanding both the motive and victimology of the killer--a crucial aspect of the investigation, especially with cold cases, where time and distance create layer upon layer of distorted memories.
Brennan’s thriller features moments of heart-stopping intensity as the team race to place the pieces of the puzzle to prevent another murder. Though there's much melodramatic handwriting by Lucy’s angst-ridden family, the end results build to a climax in which a damaged killer who has survived the unthinkable faces the formidable skills of Max and Lucy, a sophisticated duo who have the resources to track their scheming target, an exhausted executioner forever stained by the past.