Florida reporter Brandy O'Bannon is intrigued by a classified ad that asks an unidentified woman, who has been missing for twenty years, to come forward. The young mother and her two-year old daughter disappeared as Hurricane Agnes swept into the historic Gulf coast village of Cedar Key, although no fatalities were reported. When Brandy learns that a woman's skeleton was found a year later in the basement of one of the state's oldest and Cedar Key's most charming hotel, she begins a search for answers. The grisly fate of the private detective who placed the ad is soon discovered by Brandy's golden retriever. While trying to resolve both mysteries, Brandy ferrets out a new friend's true identity and guides her to self-knowledge. In the process, Brandy becomes the victim of attack, kidnapping, and hurricane. She outwits both nature and assailants, helps solve two brutal murders-and gets her front page story.
In Cook's lackluster second novel featuring newspaper reporter Brandy O'Bannon (after 2001's Trace Their Shadows), Brandy and her husband, John, come to the proudly old-fashioned community of Cedar Key, Fla., for a long weekend. Intrigued by a classified ad asking the whereabouts of a woman and child who vanished in the area during a hurricane 20 years earlier, Brandy thinks there may be a story in it. John, hoping for a romantic weekend, is bored and irritable. Much of the action centers on the town's historic hotel: the private investigator who placed the ad is staying there, as are Brandy and John; the dining-room waitress may be the missing child; a skeleton found in a basement cistern may be the missing woman. Like many a plucky young heroine before her, Brandy plunges headlong into this multilayered mystery, ignoring police warnings and her increasingly resentful husband. An overly busy plot, alas, is weighed down with limp prose and repetition, including scenes of Brandy making endless lists of what she has learned and what she plans to do next. The tantalizing glimpses of the charming Cedar Key, deliberately turning its back on the tourist dollar, make readers wish for a stronger sense of place. (POD)