It is the summer of 2002, and the world is a far different place than it was just one year prior. The events of September 11, 2011, impacted everyone, but for Kate Spenser, who had recently relocated to Washington, D.C., the changes came just two months after another catastrophic loss. In July 2001, her best friend, Elizabeth Martin, was killed in an airplane crash, leaving behind her husband, Dave, and their three small children. The youngest, Emily, was just a few months old at the time of Elizabeth’s death.
As the summer begins, Kate and her husband, Chris, are preparing to spend seven weeks at the cottage on Great Rock Island they have rented every summer for the past decade. There, Chris will work from home when not traveling on business, while Kate enjoys time with James, age six, and four-year-old Piper. En route, they stop at the Martins’ to retrieve the antique chest filled with journals that Elizabeth specifically bequeathed to Kate’s safekeeping. Elizabeth wrote, “In whatever legal language is appropriate, please indicate that I’m leaving them to her because she’s fair and sensitive and would know what should be done with them, and ask that she start at the beginning. I’ll come soon to drop off a letter for her that should go with it.”