This book opens in early May, 1975, a time when television sets across America were full of frightening and heartbreaking scenes from Vietnam as North Vietnamese forces took Saigon and American forces and their allies evacuated the country by any means possible. The images trouble Vietnam veteran Elizabeth Pepperhawk, leaving her particularly vulnerable when she is visited by a stranger who tells her that her love, Colonel Darby Baxter, has died at the U.S. embassy in Saigon. Along with that devastating news, the woman brings Elizabeth a baby–Darby’s baby?– and a demand for $3,000 to compensate her for her expenses and the risks she took getting the child out of Vietnam. Elizabeth turns to her housemates Avivah Rosen and Saul Eisenberg to raise the money to give the woman. Within a day of receiving Elizabeth’s payment, the woman who brought the baby to Elizabeth is dead. This disturbing development puts Avivah, now an Asheville police lieutenant, in an awkward situation. Can she investigate this murder when she had prior dealings with the victim and when she herself might be an accessory in the illegal transport of a baby?
Elizabeth plans to find a Vietnamese couple to adopt the child and soon learns that there is a small community of Vietnamese refugees nearby. But Elizabeth can tell that things don’t add up–at the hatchery where the refugees live and work, at the clinic where Elizabeth works and the woman died, and with the Army whose story about Colonel Baxter’s death doesn’t match the evidence that Elizabeth received from the dead woman. Elizabeth and Avivah try to sort this out even as anti-refugee sentiment flares in the community, their friend Benny’s boss goes missing, and Elizabeth’s boss–who is married to Avivah’s boss–appears to be hiding something that may or may not be related the woman’s death.
While all this is going on, major life events occur for some of the recurring characters in this series–Benny and Lorraine have a child and Avivah and Saul set a date for their wedding. Author Wildwind is tying up loose end in this novel, the last book in the Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen Mystery Series.
Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.