Atkinson's latest thriller begins one sunny afternoon with six-year-old Joanna Mason watching horrified as a strange man killed her mother, sister and baby brother with a butcher knife. Joanna survived by hiding in a nearby wheat field where she was eventually found without a scratch.Skip ahead thirty years to find that Joanna has become a successful doctor with a lovely baby boy to cherish and protect with the aid of Reggie, a sixteen-year-old nanny. In a strange happenstance, private investigator Jackson Brodie and Reggie were literally thrown together in a train wreck. When Reggie realizes Joanna has disappeared, she alerts the police who believe Andrew Decker, the man recently released for the murder of the Mason family years earlier, may have something to do with it. Chief Inspector Louise Monroe and Jackson find themselves collaborating on the case and examining the directions of their lives while searching for the missing doctor.
The many subplots take considerable time to set up but Atkinson does an admirable job of making most of them work. The downside of balancing so many storylines is that it slows the overall pace, especially during the first half of the book. The many characters and coincidences would appear farfetched in the hands of a less skilled author but Atkinson pulls them off with aplomb while providing plenty of fodder for future Brodie adventures.