Marnie Logan is living a nightmare: her husband has disappeared. Unable to prove him dead, she remains in financial limbo—his accounts frozen, a life insurance policy of $300,000 unavailable for distribution. Her four-year-old son, Elijah, needs medical attention for his condition (failure to thrive). Fifteen-year-old Zoe, barely coping with her father’s disappearance and the changes wrought upon the household, is resentful and unwilling to share her feelings. Exacerbating her dilemma, Marnie faces the restitution of Daniel’s $30,000 gambling debt to Patrick Hennessy, who demands she work off the amount as a prostitute.
When people around Marnie start dying, the only respite she finds is in her therapy sessions with clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin, who senses that Marnie is hiding a long history of psychological trauma. Unfortunately, the death of Hennessy, the pimp and the hired thug who delivers her to assignations, brings Marnie under the intense scrutiny of Detective Inspector Gennia of the London Metropolitan Police.
In a novel already crowded with a surfeit of questionable characters, Robotham adds one more: Marnie’s stalker, albeit a person who may or may not be a figment of her imagination. Robotham dances on the head of this pin like a nimble leprechaun, salting the mystery with possibilities, Marnie stranded in limbo, either victim or victimizer. Because of the contradictions inherent in Marnie’s predicament—all begun with Daniel’s sudden disappearance—a red album discovered in Daniel’s office yields not answers but more questions in an already complicated tale. Intended as a surprise gift, Daniel has compiled the story of Marnie’s life, delving into her past to add context.
Asking for interviews from old boyfriends and associates has led to a number of unexpected revelations, not all of the complimentary. O’Loughlin sets investigator Vincent Ruiz, ex-Metro Police, on the trail of Marnie’s past relationships, hoping for clues to the unacknowledged problems that have so challenged her ability to tolerate present circumstances. Her denial of the past seems important, a key to the underlying trauma that has perpetuated Marnie’s willful denial, a coping mechanism that has ceased to work. In any case, this young woman is so deeply damaged that only O’Loughlin’s tenacity will achieve positive results. The fog of the past is undoubtedly related to the insanity of the present, though his assumptions are supported more by instinct than any real basis in fact.
While the novel is well-plotted and often suspenseful (hard to put down, in fact), the drama that attends Marnie Logan at every level is disturbing. Innocent or not (the jury is out on this), any reasonable person sensing the depth of this woman’s problems would run the other way. O’Loughlin’s continuing tendency to get involved with such extreme characters, sometimes breaching professional boundaries, dilutes his appeal as a continuing protagonist. Perhaps his ongoing struggle with the devastation of Parkinson’s disease has affected the therapist’s ability to exercise caution. The more the disease intrudes, the more likely he is to act impulsively. He may be right about this rather tragic patient, but Joe is too often careless of his own best interests (a sap).