In Birth Marks, private investigator Hannah Wolfe gets a case worthy of the great detective novels she so admires. At first glance, this one doesn't fit the bill: she's asked to find a missing ballet dancer, Carolyn Hamilton. When Carolyn's body is fished out of the Thames, stones in her pockets and an eight-month-old fetus in her belly, the police think it's a no-brainer: Single pregnant woman can't face her impending responsibilities, takes a leap off a bridge. But Hannah can't shake the suspicion that something else is going on. Hannah's investigation takes her from the London dance world to the upper echelons of Parisian society in search of the unborn child's father. But his explanation only raises more questions, and for Hannah the case grows more treacherous, fueling her own ambivalent feelings about relationships and motherhood.
The tough-as-nails young female sleuth who debuts here is London-based private eye Hannah Wolfe. Hired by an aging former dancer to find a lithe and pretty ballet prodigy who has gone missing, Hannah learns that young Carolyn Hamilton, whose nerves required Valium and whose tender ankles needed medication, has left a trail of impersonal postcards and some hefty credit-card debts. Hannah has barely begun to dig when Carolyn's body--which reveals that she was eight months pregnant--turns up in the Thames. The trail back to her drowning leads across the English Channel to a wealthy family and an old man close to death with no apparent heirs. A refreshing Londoner with an appealing softness under her slick, self-effacing surface, Hannah skirts cheap gumshoe patter. Everywhere she turns she sees youngsters, parents and those who want badly to become parents, and all of seem germane to her nicely resolved case and her awareness that the snooze button on her own biological clock isn't working as it used to. Dunant also wrote Snow Storms in a Hot Climate.