This novel is shrouded in a love letter, a tone of regret that frequently lapses into sorrow when a random, inexplicable act of violence shakes Beatrice Hemming to the core. As Beatrice provides a witness statement to Mr. Wright, a kindly lawyer at London’s Crown Prosecution Service, in preparation for a trial in four months time, what starts out as a confessional about
her missing sister, Tess, soon morphs into a disturbing and frenzied account of murder.
Senior manager of a design company in New York, Beatrice can’t quite believe the unexpected phone call from her mother saying that Tess has gone missing and
that the police are looking for her. Pregnant Tess was due to deliver in just under three weeks. Emilio Codi, her tutor at art college, is rumored to be the father, but
married Emilio apparently forced Tess take a sabbatical when her “bump” started to show.
Plagued with the feeling that she should be doing more to help Tess, Beatrice hurriedly flies to London, her disappearance a terrible shock and almost impossible to fathom for this rather undemonstrative family. As Beatrice and her mother struggle to acknowledge the reality that they might not see Tess again, Beatrice agrees to participate in a police film reconstruction, the clip to air on television later that night.
Tess’s landlord tells Beatrice that her sister had been getting weird phone calls.
On closer examination of her shabby flat, Beatrice discovers clothes from charity shops,
third-hand furniture, and expensive, brand-new baby clothes that Tess could never have afforded. Ensconced in Tess’s grubby apartment behind closed doors, a prickle of menace and grief swallows Beatrice, an “offal-like” dread that slowly embeds itself into her psyche.
Driven by the need to talk to her sister, Beatrice befriends Kasia, a Polish immigrant who Tess had met at the local prenatal clinic.
Beatrice learns from her that Tess had been involved in a cystic fibrosis trial at St. Anne’s Hospital coordinated by the Chrom-Med, a wealthy pharmaceutical company planning to float their shares on the stock market. The man behind the miracle, Prof. Rosen
- absurdly clichéd with his wire glasses - has been developing a chromosome cure for the disease, and Tess was one of the first women to undergo the therapy.
Falling over a precipice of terror, Lupton revels in the loving contradictions between two sisters. Beatrice, shocked that Tess’s baby had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, struggles with her own issues - a disintegrating marriage, her transient London life, an unhelpful police constabulary who blindside her at every turn, and her haunting sadness over the death of her little brother, Leo, who died of cystic fibrosis several years ago.
In articulate prose that highlights Beatrice’s heartfelt apology to Tess, the tale is a tragic confessional and a way for Beatrice to understand her negligence. As insinuations of psychosis take control, the damage is finally done. Lupton’s protagonist finds herself in a deadly showdown with a killer, clinging to her life as her world and that of her sister's collapses around her.