When nine-year-old Haddiyyah Azhar is abducted by her mother Angelina, estranged partner of Azhar, Sergeant Barbara Havers is desperate to try to find her, but getting no support from Inspector Lynley or his redoubtable superior officer, and ex-lover, Isabelle Ardery, she sets out on her own. She recruits the services of a seedy reporter and an equally seedy private investigator.
This takes her to Italy, where Angelina is with her present partner, Lorenzo Mura. From here on the plot thickens with a vengeance. Was Haddiyyah kidnapped by her father or by someone seeking a ransom or is it the reporter engineering a scoop?
Lynley comes to Italy to liaise with the reluctant Italian Police, which leads to a great deal of unnecessary language problems, which are exacerbated when Barbara meets the Italian Police. Whether or not Haddiyyah is found it would be unkind to reveal. The rest of the book is a dense delving into "who how and why" and demands either a degree of concentration or an ability to skim through the gist. Suffice it to say, it is worth an effort.
One or two things I found added unnecessarily to the plot: Elizabeth George seems to have an obsession with street directions of a Sat Nav intensity - does the average reader need to know exactly how to get from A to B in a small Italian town? Or need a liberal sprinkling of unrecognisable Italian words?
The book starts off with Lynley, whose wife was shot on the doorstep only a year or two ago, being unconvincingly involved with a six-foot female roller-blader, which turns out to be merely a device for getting on with the next book.
To appreciate this book fully it is advantageous to have read at least some of the previous books about Inspector Lynley and his sergeant Barbara Havers. You may have seen them on television, where, in my opinion, they are miscast. This book is very long, 711 pages, the length of two average novels, and it is to the author's credit that she maintains interest throughout. But don't let me put you off. It's still a good read!