Where Are the Children Now?

Image of Where Are the Children Now?
Release Date: 
April 4, 2023
Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by: 

More than 40 years ago, Nancy Harmon was a young mother charged with drowning her two children, and due to a technicality, she was set free. Though suspicion was on her, she insisted she was innocent. She loved her children and would never do anything to harm them.

Her husband Carl left her, and she became a pariah in her California community, which forced her to move across the country and settle in Cape Cod. It was here she started a new life, remarried, became Nancy Eldredge, and later gave birth to Mike and Melissa. When these two go missing, Nancy’s earlier history is revealed. Again, she faces criticism, but secrets from her past allow her to locate and rescue her kids.

Mike and Melissa have grown up with careers of their own. Mike captains a boat during the winter in St. Maarten, and Melissa practices law in New York City. When Melissa’s father passes away, she is overcome with depression. Katie Palmer, Melissa’s best friend, and a New York, junior assistant district attorney, researches therapists for Melissa to help with her grief. While attending counseling sessions, Melissa meets a man named Charlie Miller who is mourning the loss of his wife, Linda. The two share their bond of sorrow and soon become inseparable.

Before long, Charlie proposes, yet Melissa’s mother and Mike believe the relationship is moving too quickly. Melissa had recently been dumped by her ex-steady, Patrick Higgins, a man she had dated for a long time and thought she would marry. Recovering from a broken heart, she is thrilled to find Charlie is the “perfect man.” He not only loves her as she does him, but she also adores Charlie’s three-year-old daughter, Riley.

Melissa defends a woman named Jennifer Duncan who allegedly killed her older and abusive husband, Doug, in self-defense. Though she is exonerated, this turns into a hotly debated case because the prosecution tries to prove she murdered him for his money. Melissa and Jennifer become close, but soon afterward her acquittal, their friendship fizzles:

“But then Jennifer also wanted Melissa’s help in probate court, where her husband’s estate was still pending. Under the law, Jennifer’s criminal conviction prevented her from inheriting what she otherwise would have received under their will—which was the entire estate. Once her conviction was set aside, Jennifer claimed she was entitled to inherit everything after all. . . .

“Melissa tried to explain that she wasn’t an estate lawyer and wanted to focus her attention on criminal justice and not a probate battle with Doug’s children, but Jennifer lashed out at her in a fierce rage.”

From this trial with Jennifer, Melissa is given the opportunity to host a podcast, The Justice Club, where she highlights cases of those unjustly accused. She gives up her law practice and, in addition, she becomes a bestselling author and sought-after speaker on the lecture circuit.

Nancy, as a widow, still lives on Cape Cod but decides to sell the family house and move to the Hamptons. Mike is home for the summer, and he and Melissa help Nancy with her move. Charlie, now Melissa’s husband, is away on a business trip, and Riley is with Melissa while they are in the process of relocating Nancy. After her horrendous abduction as a child, Melissa keeps a vigilant eye on Riley, loving her as if she was her own flesh and blood. But helping her mother and working on her podcast exhausts her.

She tells Riley they both need to take a nap, and Melissa puts down the child and then falls into a deep, almost drugged sleep, only to wake up to discover Riley is missing. Panic-stricken, she searches everywhere, wondering where the child could be. She rushes to the nearby park where she took the child to recently, remembering how much Riley enjoyed it there. Her mind goes cold when she recalls the woman who tried to befriend Riley while she watched from a nearby bench. Could Riley have gone to the park? Was that woman there? Did she take Riley? She did seem very interested in the little girl.

Fear and anguish consume Melissa, bringing back the horrific memories of when she and Mike were taken. How can she tell Charlie about this? Riley is his life.

Melissa’s thoughts turn to Carl Harmon, her mother’s first husband, and the one who abducted Mike and her so long ago. One could say the man “looked completely normal on the outside—people like Carl Harmon. His name. She hated that name and wished she could forget it forever.” Is he back again and has he taken Riley?

The authorities are summoned and an intense search commences. Charlie is notified of his daughter’s disappearance and speeds home to go to police headquarters. Melissa contacts Grant “Mac” Macintosh, an attorney friend and part-time co-host on her podcast. She begs him to help Charlie, whom the police now believe it was he who captured and did away with his daughter. Mac agrees to counsel Charlie though he feels she and Charlie should have no contact with each other, which could be seen as a scheme they both concocted to get rid of Riley. Melissa thinks this is absurd but goes along with his demands.

Of course, Melissa is totally distraught, not to mention Nancy. Is history repeating itself a third time? How often can something like this happen to one person?

Confused, Melissa senses something is fishy with the whole situation, so she takes a deeper look into Charlie’s past, hoping to learn more about his deceased wife—a woman he never talks about. What she learns chills her to her bones making her question, Who is this man I’ve married?

Things become more complicated as Melissa tries desperately to find the child she now considers her own and not just a step-child. When the truth of this whole plot is revealed, it is almost unconceivable, though she knows the world is full of cruel and contentious people who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

The connection between the past and the present is shockingly eerie as certain characters replay the same actions over and over. Fast-paced and thrilling, this addition to the original story (Where Are the Children?) has one wondering who they can trust, and if anyone is really safe. Truly suspenseful and hair-raising, and integrated with the previous book, Where Are the Children Now? stands alone for it includes plotlines from the original while demonstrating that human nature remains the same throughout time.