A trio kidnaps a 13-year-old girl and demands her uncle’s murder in exchange for her freedom in this thriller.
Cailey Marshall is like any eighth-grader—anxious to fit in with her cooler peers. In order to join an exclusive clique of girls at her school, she accepts a dare to sneak into an old, abandoned house and retrieve an item that proves that she did so. However, in the course of completing the challenge, she’s kidnapped by a stranger—a hulking man named Clint Connard. Cailey loses consciousness during the abduction, and when she comes to, she finds herself in a dark, unfamiliar room, bound and unable to escape. Her three captors—Clint and two women, Anne and Julia—inform her that she won’t be released until her father, Barry, murders his brother, Stuart. They give Barry strict instructions: He can’t call the police; he must produce proof that he’s done the deed; and he has seven days to do it—or Cailey dies. Author Brenham (Rampage, 2015, etc.) artfully makes the reader experience the same anxious uncertainty that afflicts Barry and his wife, Erin. They’re afraid to contact the authorities and have reason to believe they’re being closely watched. Also, Stuart has sketchy dealings in his past, but he vehemently denies possessing any knowledge that would help locate Cailey. Barry, a former cop-turned-professor, has little choice but to try to find his daughter on his own or to come up with another strategic alternative. The author laces the entire novel with crackling suspense, offering just enough information to keep the reader engaged—but never too much, too soon. Also, Cailey is a memorable heroine; although she’s appropriately terrified, she’s also precociously resourceful and capable of extraordinary bravery when necessary. The plot can be confusing—sometimes unpredictability comes at the cost of coherence—and the story, as a whole, is a touch convoluted. However, the novel remains a darkly atmospheric and deeply unsettling experience, overall.
An arresting, intelligently crafted drama.