MY BROTHER'S KEEPER is the second Diane Rowe book from New Zealand author Donna Malane, and it's a really strong idea for a protagonist. Rowe is a PI who specialises in looking for missing people, which seems like such a believable, unsurprising thing to do, even in this cyber-connected-technical-no-fault-divorce world, that it gives the character gravitas from the outset.
Not that she's an overly sober or considered woman. Rowe comes across as someone of great compassion, and concern for her clients, but flawed and a bit chaotic. She's a straight talker, and prepared to go the extra mile, but she's also not bullet-proof or perfect. Her personal life is just crazy enough to be believable, her professional instincts strong enough to give her credibility, her determination to continue makes her very likeable.
The book isn't all about Rowe though - Sunny, the daughter being sought, is also a strong character. A realistic 14 year old, with the sort of fragile core that seems to go with the aftermath of her mother's actions. At the same time, she's a teenager with a protective father and a fractious relationship with her stepmother. When her life starts to spiral out of control again, her turning to Rowe for support makes sense.
Finding Sunny for her mother is only part of this plot, as that doesn't take too long. Convincing Sunny and her father to meet with her mother after all these years isn't the easiest task, and Rowe has to work hard to convince everyone. Along the way the situation at Sunny's home starts to become clearer, and her father, and stepmother are soon under question. Not as much as Sunny's mother Karen though.
Whilst this plot is intricate and heads off in a lot of directions, it's reasonably strong. Even though there's a real possibility that reader's could guess the truth, getting it confirmed, and understanding the why is as important as who and what. There is even a strong romantic thread built in for fans of that sort of development. Set in both Wellington and Auckland it's possible to get a bit of a feeling for both those places. There's also a very good, dry, wry sense of humour built in. Interestingly the author is a producer and script writer, but in this book she's balanced the effects of that background by compressing the action into a number of days, without giving the entire thing a film script treatment.
Definitely a great series for fans of something slightly lighter, yet not completely cozy and fluffy, MY BROTHER'S KEEPER is a really enjoyable outing which doesn't seem to suffer from not having read the earlier book.