In December of 1963, 13-year-old Alison Carter disappears from the remote British village of Scardale. Alison was not the sort to wander from home. George Bennett, a determined man, is put in charge of the case, and hes convinced that Alison has met with foul play. As the days go by, he becomes more and more convinced that Alison is dead. Hes also sure he knows who committed the crime, but without a body, its going to be a stretch to prove it. Still, nothing can stop George and step-by-step he builds a convincing case against the most likely culprit.

Three decades later, journalist Catherine Heathcote decides to write the definitive work about the Alison Carter case. Naturally, she needs Georges help, which he willingly offers. However, neither one of them realizes that in researching the Carter case a new slant will be put on the events of 1963, and a horrifying truth will be revealed.

Val McDermid has created a novel so intense and vivid that the reader suspends her own reality and enters the world of Scardale in 1963. The story is tightly told with characters so memorable that they become part of our life. A brilliantly logical denouement stuns and shatters us, making this a most remarkable reading experience. (Sep., 480 pp., $6.99—Hardcover published September 2000)

Reviewed by: 
Toby Bromberg