When Ariel takes her concern to the local police, they are almost dismissive: he hasn’t been gone long enough for it to be a concern. But they do find her interesting enough to tail. From the smirks the smarmy fellow at the US Embassy gives her it’s clear he is equally indifferent, although he does take some intriguing information about the couple to the CIA Chief of Station down the corridor. An American journalist hanging around the embassy offers help, which Ariel politely declines. No sign of John at the hospitals she contacts.
The hotel’s CCTV shows him leaving early in the morning, not dressed for the client business meetings he has scheduled, and maybe getting into a car. The male cop is still sceptical: Ariel’s ignorance of her husband’s clients doesn’t help. But his female colleague is a little more willing to make an effort. What happens next changes the complexion of his absence, but much more can’t be said without spoilers.
The opening chapters are intriguing enough to draw the reader in, but it’s not until things hot up that Ariel’s steel is revealed. And how! With flashbacks to her recent past, and a bit of action with a tail, Ariel demonstrates just how self-sufficient she can be. And it’s those scenes where she is fending for herself that provide plenty of dark humour.
It’s soon clear that neither Ariel nor John is quite who they seem; nor do all those claiming to want to help find John have entirely benign intentions, but most of them definitely want to know what is behind Ariel’s apparent power over a certain influential figure.
The main narrative is carried by Ariel, but many of the minor characters contribute, and the narrative often switches between them, relying only on context to denote whose perspective is being given. Rather than adding confusion, this seems to give the story an immediacy that keeps the reader engrossed.
While there are hints at espionage and the influence of foreign powers, the apparent immunity to prosecution of privileged white males who indulges in sexual harassment of the worst kind (and who closely resembles a certain president), is central to the story.
Very little suspension of disbelief is required in this tightly plotted story which has plenty of red herrings and enough twists to possibly necessitate a chiropractic consult. Pavone’s latest is definitely a page-turner. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Farrar, Straus & Giroux.