Just hours before her body is found in a car in a parking lot, a young woman hands her baby to a perfect stranger and disappears. The stranger is the daughter of Delia Wainberg, a lawyer in the same firm as Joanne Kilbourn's husband. One close look at the child suggests that there might be a family relationship, and soon the truth about the child Delia gave up for adoption years ago comes out. The boy must be Delia's grandson. Then his mother is found dead, sexually assaulted and murdered. Not only is there a killer on the loose, but the dead woman's partner is demanding custody of the child.
Canadian author Bowen's enjoyable if flawed 12th Joanne Kilbourn mystery (after 2008's The Brutal Heart) focuses largely on the rich family life of the Regina, Saskatchewan, academic, who gets involved in a convoluted custody case and murder. At a pre-Christmas concert, a troubled young woman hands a baby boy to teenage Isobel Wainberg with a message for Isobel's mother, Delia, who's a friend and law partner of Joanne's husband, Zach Shreve. The young woman turns out to be Abby Michaels, who says she's Delia's daughter. When Abby is discovered raped and strangled in a car in a snowy parking lot soon after her stunning revelation, her death adds to the confusion and consternation over the fate of her six-month-old son, Jacob. Questions of parentage and custody cloud the murder investigation, while Zack's health (he's a paraplegic) presents still more difficulties. Bowen's resolution may well disappoint, but her realistic depictions of Joanne's extended caring family should please fans.