Two bright, extraordinary people on different continents cross paths in their quests to remedy injustice in Ernst’s debut thriller.
Bonn Maddox and Henna Maxwell begin their lives with an ocean between them. In New York, many praise young Bonn’s good manners, but his mother, Raquel, seems disgusted by his lack of emotion. She starts abusing cocaine, which decimates her marriage to her lawyer husband, Troy. Multiple tragedies eventually leave Bonn parentless. Henna, meanwhile, was orphaned at age 4 when a fire killed her mother and father. She’s raised in Finland by her doting grandfather Alvar Takala. Bonn is considered a “freak” at boarding school, but he’s much stronger than his peers in gym class, and bullies learn this the hard way. As a youth, he witnessed criminals skirting the legal system firsthand, so he takes it upon himself as an adult to mete out justice where it’s due. Around the same time, four men beat and rape Henna, and she retaliates immediately by using her area of expertise: toxins. Later, Bonn pre-empts a second attack by other assailants—by killing them. Soon, he realizes that he could use a toxicologist’s skills in his ongoing battle against miscreants. Ernst’s unhurried pace deftly shows the teamed vigilante killers to be complex individuals. However, the author is careful not to define Bonn or Henna as mere products of their surroundings: Bonn’s psychological troubles could be innate (he even bites his wet nurse), and Henna’s resolve to fight “monsters” isn’t overcome by Alvar’s love. But when shady types get too close to Henna’s friend Stephan and Bonn’s surrogate father, Manny, their mission of retaliation becomes more personal. The protagonists’ inevitable meeting takes a while—more than half the story goes by before they even start texting each other. But the inclusion of homicide detective Terry Grimaldi boosts the narrative momentum, as he and his partner, Estelle Castillo, spot a pattern in a series of murders. Danger lurks for Bonn and Henna by the end of the tale, in an obvious but still memorable cliffhanger.
An invigorating, analytical look at vigilantism that neither condemns nor condones it.