The title of J.P. Beaumont’s new case, which could equally well have introduced any number of his previous 23 (Proof of Life, 2017, etc.), is more pointed than the Seattle cop–turned–private eye can possibly know.
Alan Dale, the former carpenter for the traveling crew of singer Jasmine Day, who became Jasmine’s romantic partner 30 years ago and stayed with her until she died of Hepatitis C, shows up on Beaumont’s doorstep with a newborn baby and an urgent request. Naomi Dale, Alan and Jasmine's troubled daughter, went AWOL from a maternity ward shortly after giving birth to Athena Dale, leaving her methadone-addicted baby behind, and disappeared. The 6-week-old has been weaned off the drug, and Alan’s doing his best to make a home for her. But he’d feel a lot better if Beaumont found Naomi. No sooner has Beaumont started his search than he discovers, or rather fails to discover, another person who’s even more comprehensively missing: Petey Mayfield, Naomi’s boyfriend and Athena’s father, who abandoned his pregnant wife months ago. Although Petey’s led the life of a will-o’-the-wisp, Beaumont suspects that his disappearance has darker overtones connected to the estate of his late grandmother, Agnes Mayfield, whose quitclaim to a parcel of land crucial to the plans of a West Seattle developer left her grandson out in the cold when she died. Agnes’ daughter, Lenora Harrison, who inherited the estate instead of her nephew, puts on such airs with Beaumont that he takes particular pleasure in the prospect of tying her to the two disappearances. And he really needs that pleasure, because mounting evidence suggests that his own one-night stand with Jasmine 29 years ago may well have made him Naomi’s father and Athena’s grandfather. It’s lucky that Beaumont’s second wife left him well off, because his pecunia ex machina comes in very handy in setting this quest to rights.
A bighearted search among family skeletons whose main surprise is how easy it all is.