Set Free by Anthony Bidulka

Set Free

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A writer, tormented over his daughter’s kidnapping, becomes an abductee himself while traveling to Morocco in Bidulka’s (When the Saints Go Marching In, 2013, etc.) thriller.

Jaspar Wills’ books on travel and family life have turned him into a celebrity. He takes a trip to Morocco for work, but he’s also trying to escape the emotional fallout from his 13-year-old daughter Mikki’s abduction. Not long after landing, however, Jaspar is kidnapped by men whose language he doesn’t understand, and who are apparently holding him for ransom. Flashbacks reveal details of Mikki’s story from months before, back in Boston. An anonymous letter demanded $10 million from Jaspar and his wife, Jenn, but things didn’t go well, as the kidnapper correctly suspected the FBI’s involvement. Later, Jaspar’s captors put him into something called the “rectangle,” an isolated, small, outdoor prison where he can barely escape the blistering sun. Miraculously, he survives and makes it home, and Jenn’s journalist friend, Katie Edwards, hopes for a scoop. But when Jaspar beats her to the punch with an autobiography, Katie heads to Morocco herself in search of a piece of the story that no one else has—and what she unearths is shocking. Despite Jaspar’s imprisonment, Bidulka’s novel is more mysterious than frightening. The first third, for example, is an excerpt from the protagonist’s book, so readers will quickly surmise that he’ll make it out alive. The countless plot twists, however, are exhilarating, with gasp-inducing drama (including the lengths to which fame-hungry Katie will go) and flatly startling story turns. Bidulka wisely shifts the perspective from Jaspar to Katie, whose narrative deepens the mystery by making readers question Jaspar’s previous account. The back stories, particularly of Jaspar and Jenn’s meet-cute, add layers to the characters, and the deceptively simple prose has bursts of insight, as when a tearful Jenn falls into an embrace with Katie like “a marionette let loose from its strings.” The title, too, takes on multiple meanings, literal and metaphorical.

An intoxicating story that examines the elusive nature of truth.

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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