A mystery featuring a woman with amnesia in New Jersey, a drowned fishing guide on Long Island, a 15-year-old cold case in Wichita, and much more.
In her 19th mystery, and the sixth to feature detective Ellie Hatcher, Burke has taken the kitchen-sink approach, offering a rare abundance of characters, crimes, and misdemeanors. As much as there is a protagonist, it is a woman who, years ago, was thrown from an SUV in Hopewell, New Jersey, and lost her memory. Hope Miller, as she is now known, has spent the past decade and a half under the wing of a devoted friend she met after the accident, an attorney named Lindsay who lives with a boyfriend named Scott. But as the story opens, Hope has disappeared from Hopewell without leaving Lindsay any information as to her whereabouts. Since she has no legal identity, Hope has to work under the radar; she finds a job staging properties on the East End of Long Island for a sketchy real estate agent named...oh well, turns out he's not that important. Meanwhile, there's Ellie Hatcher, the detective whose series this is. She's on vacation in St. Barth's with her boyfriend, Max, having bad dreams about her dad, a cop who committed suicide because he couldn't find Wichita's College Hill Strangler, who was later arrested and jailed. Then there's this giant home improvement chain also based in Wichita whose female CEO is running for senator...and wait, there's more! This novel seems more like the work of a beginning crime writer than one with Burke's experience. Clues, red herrings, exposition, and "things you should know" are dropped in awkwardly and obviously: "Lindsay had learned that psychological trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder could also induce dissociative fugue, or what used to be called a fugue state—a psychological condition characterized by an inability to recall one’s identity or personality." All this hand-holding aside, the book operates on what feels like a kind of anti–Occam's-razor logic, favoring the most complicated solution to any question. The good news is, there is one.
For those who like a tricky brain teaser and aren't too picky about interesting characters or emotional realism.