It all begins with a “Have you seen this child?” flyer. The image on the flyer is exactly that of Ellen Gleeson’s adopted son, Will. A newspaper features writer, Ellen’s job is currently threatened by an unstable economic environment. She has plenty to worry about, but the random image of the flyer plants a seed of doubt that Ellen cannot ignore.
Researching the documents from the adoption, Ellen backtracks through contacts and circumstances, ever more concerned that her child is indeed Tim Braverman. The adoption, though legal, will not protect her from having Will taken away. The more obsessed Ellen becomes, the less she is able to concentrate on her work, her attraction to her new boss, an Antonio Banderas look-alike, or the recent enmity of another reporter. Logic spirals into chaos as Ellen interviews one person after another, each new contact reinforcing the truth of her adoption of Will.
Doubt intrudes, festers, and grows, spinning everyday reality into the threat of losing a beloved son. A conscientious worker, Ellen trusts her instincts and her skills but is blindsided by the emotional distress of seeing the tiny face of Tim Braverman. Ellen’s preoccupation is confusing as she obsesses on this problem while her job is at risk, especially when a co-worker is busy undermining her at every turn. All of Ellen’s fear is based on supposition, none of the facts immediately available.
Common sense aside, the novel proceeds on the premise that Ellen is correct in her assumptions, whether anyone believes her or not. It is then her mission to unravel a tangled web of deceit, even when the danger to Ellen and her son increases with each new event. Ellen has stirred up a hornet’s nest with her questions; once begun, she has no control over the outcome, compelled to learn a terrible truth that will possibly alter her future and that of her son.
The writing style is a bit confusing, from grim sarcasm (“Time to get stalking”) to chapters of interplay between Ellen and Will (“Quality Time Frenzy”) to the insanity (and people) around the mystery. With a specious what-if premise at best, Scottoline takes her plot farther than is reasonable. I’ll give her this, though: this woman can write a believable child, Will as crazy-making as his mother until it is difficult to see which is which, Ellen’s manic energy as disturbing as her child’s.
The end of the novel is a bit facile, the romance predictable (yes, the Banderas look-alike falls for the heroine). Not brilliant, the prose mediocre at best, this novel will nonetheless garner a following of loyal fans, an afternoon of entertaining mystery-lite if the reader doesn’t require too much substance. This thriller borders on chick-lit, baby-mama drama - perhaps a more appropriate genre for Look Again.