I miss the TV show Cold Case. Something about the idea of bringing someone to justice who thought they got away with their crime is deeply satisfying. The solving of a cold case, to me, brings equality to the scales of justice and a sense of “rightness” back to the world.
J.D. Cass of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is at breakfast when he receives the call: The missing girl everyone has been looking for is no longer missing. Unfortunately, she is also no longer living. And to add to the trauma, she is holding the body of a long-dead baby. DNA tests prove it is one of the Baby Blue Boys, a case from over a decade ago. But the baby killer had long since been incarcerated and died while imprisoned – so who is digging up the babies’ bodies? And why?
As J.D. scrambles to make sense of a case full of nonsensical elements, he also finds himself scrambling to deal with issues at home. He has been newly reunited with his teenage daughter Zoe, and the reunion has been less than successful. The problems she is causing are threatening to pull him off task just as he is making important headway. He doesn’t want to brush off his child but he also needs to keep his mind on the job. The only counselor J.D. knows is grief counselor Audrey Sherrod. There is no love lost between them, but perhaps she can help him understand the mind of this killer and help him reach a point of peace with his willful child. But as he gets to know her more, is he in danger of being pulled even further off task by the charms of his family counselor?
Therapist Audrey Sherrod has always had trouble keeping the appropriate distance between herself and her cases. Recent events are making this even harder to do. First there is the return of the Baby Blue Boys, one of which was probably her infant brother, whose loss destroyed her family. Now enter J.D. and his daughter Zoe. Audrey sees so much of herself in Zoe, she can’t help but empathize. But is she wrong in seeing her own father in J.D.? The two may both be cops, but clearly only one of the two men is capable of being a loving parent. This presents its own dangers to Audrey’s objectivity, though. Because as she sees him give his daughter the time and attention the girl clearly needs and deserves she finds herself wanting a bit of that attention too.
The past and present incessantly collide in this tale of resolutions and redemptions. Clearly, someone is reliving – and in some ways returning – the children snatched during the Baby Blue years. As the parents of those long missing children deal with grief forcibly brought back, other parents deal with the fresh loss of their daughters. J.D. and Audrey search the memories of others – and themselves – to try to figure out who is bridging the gap between past and present. It is a painful time for Audrey and her brother Hart as they live over and over – through dreams and memories dredged up by the present day murders – the awful day their younger brother Blake disappeared.
The ties to the past aren’t just there for Audrey and Hart. Their uncle, Gavin, is also a large part of the investigation, as is Detective Tamara Lovelady, Audrey’s best friend. Both have ties – and painful memories -associated with the past and the horrors caused by Blake’s disappearance. Wayne, Audrey’s father, haunted by what occurred that day, has close ties only with the other parents of the Baby Blue boys. All of them are also sent into emotional upheaval as the little bodies appear one by one.
The crime in this novel – the modern day murder of the young look alike “Madonnas” combined with the long searched for bodies of the Baby Blue victims – is complex. There are red herrings and “surprises” scattered throughout the text. While I normally love the whole process of solving a crime, in this book I felt things were bogged down a bit. And I struggled with some aspects of the crime that seemed near impossible.
I have to add that the romance in this book left a lot to be desired. In the beginning, both Audrey and J.D. were with other people. Audrey handled her situation well, but the way J.D. handled his left a bad taste in my mouth. The thoughts he had about his soon to be ex, coupled with the idea of farewell sex he thought of as a farewell ____ (fill in the blank with unflattering, uncaring word for sex) just didn’t work for me. Also, since Audrey didn’t like J.D. at the beginning, the hostility they had to overcome to get to an HEA made the relationship seem more work than joy.
And speaking of work – J.D. dumped almost all the work of taking care of his child on Audrey the moment he was able to. Noises were made about how much he was trying with the girl – and certainly their communication improved – but the bulk of the actual work seemed to go to Audrey. I appreciated that he had to work long, weird hours, but there seemed to be an underlying sense that it was the woman’s responsibility to care for the offspring, and that disturbed me. There was nothing overt, nothing directly said, but the general story line seemed to subtly emphasize the idea that moms are ultimately responsible for the kids. I agree that parents (including dads) are responsible for their children, but I certainly don’t feel that girlfriends or female friends are responsible for the children of the men in their lives, even if they are clearly more qualified (based on being a psychologist, or school teacher etc.) to do so.
There is some solid writing here and the author kept me interested enough to keep turning the pages, but the weakness of the crime and romance plots kept me from loving this novel. Definitely a read for die hard Barton fans only.