Set in 1986, the novel begins with Ray Lovell, a private investigator, in a hospital, partially paralyzed and with chunks of his memories missing. The novel then flashes back to the beginning when Leon Wood hires Ray Lovell to look into the disappearance and possible murder of Rose Janko, his daughter who has been missing for over six years. Leon makes it clear that he chose Ray due to his gypsy heritage since this should make it easier for him to investigate in the gypsy community than if he were a complete outsider. Leon hasn't seen his daughter since her marriage seven years before, and while he has wondered if it is true that Rose ran off after giving birth to a son or whether she was in fact murdered by her husband or his family, it is only now that he has decided to act on his suspicions. Knowing that it will be difficult to find traces after this long period of time, Ray takes the case and finds himself drawn to some members of the Janko family. The novel flashes back and forth between Ray and JJ, Rose's husband's nephew/first cousin once removed, giving the reader insight into the Janko family, their unfortunate family history, and JJ's moments of teen angst.
Rose and Ivo's son, Christo, has inherited the family disease which has already killed a large portion of the males of the family. As a result, they have a rather small gypsy family, and though they struggle to hold onto the old ways, the family consists of only JJ, his mother and his grandparents; Tene, his great-uncle and grandmother's brother, Tene's son, Ivo, and Christo. Everyone else has died over the years, due to the family disease or curse, cancer or in Ivo's sister's case, an accident. The only exception is Tene's youngest sister, Lulu, who has assimilated and lives in the city, having very little contact with her family. As Ray comes around with questions, JJ begins to wonder about his family's past, and whether they are in fact hiding secrets from him.
As the novel progresses, Ray develops an odd type of relationship with the Jankos. In the process of a divorce, he finds himself drawn to Lulu, and his interactions with the family in some ways make it seem like he was hired by them rather than by Rose's father. Certainly, he doesn't want to alienate his only leads, but Ray develops a great deal of interest in their lives and involves himself quite a bit, all while trying to answer the questions of Rose's whereabouts, and the slew of unfortunate deaths in the Jankos' pasts.
Overall, I mostly liked this novel. The author certainly kept her readers guessing, and while I saw a few reviews make comments about twist endings, I honestly don't feel like it was completely out there - Penney had certainly thrown hints out throughout the novel so the reveleations at the end could all be traced back to various comments throughout the novel. However, I did feel like the novel dragged a little bit. While I was curious to learn more about the disease in addition to the truth, there were a few points where I felt like it was time to get moving. JJ definitely goes through a bit of teen angst in the middle which I found a bit obnoxious but then again, teen angst tends to be annoying unless you're the one experiencing it. Ray is also a damaged character, still reeling from the fact that his wife, whom he was deeply in love with, cheated on him and left him. I was kind of surprised by the way some of the characters acted, because while the Jankos are protective and close knit on the one hand, they also seem rather friendly and accommodating to Ray, even though they must know that he suspects them of some type of foul play regarding Rose. Basically, the characters didn't always make the most sense to me, but generally, I thought it was an engaging and slightly moody mystery novel.