Huskins’ (Khan in Rasputin’s Shadow, 2009) latest thriller follows two kidnapped young sisters who find help from an unlikely source—a psychopathic serial killer.
A late-night excursion for groceries takes a dark turn for Kaley and Shannon, young siblings taken by a Russian group that deals in human trafficking. It seems that the only witness to the abduction, Spencer Pelletier, isn’t sticking around; a seasoned criminal and killer, he escaped from the Leavenworth federal penitentiary two years ago and would prefer avoiding the cops. While authorities search for the girls and Spencer, Kaley uses an ability her grandmother called “the charm” to develop a telepathic connection to Spencer. A disturbing man, Spencer behaves in twisted ways disclosed rather bluntly—particulars of his murders involve a rather uncomfortable amount of biting. He may make some readers squeamish, and he’s certainly hard to like when he’s gathering funds and false identification to continue hiding from police, all while two girls are being held captive. But Huskins smartly turns Spencer into a necessary evil: Kaley’s “charm” sets him on a path often reserved for heroes, and the kidnappers, whose vile deeds exclusively include children, are much worse. The true protagonist, however, and the story’s finest character, is 12-year-old Kaley. She’s a motherlike figure for her younger sister, Shannon—their real mother is a meth addict—and even to Bonetta, another abducted girl. Her initial encounter with Spencer at a local store is astonishing—they unnerve one another, her sensing that he’s a murderer, him believing she’s recognized him—and brilliantly establishes a bizarre alliance that’s maintained throughout the story. The novel sustains a high level of intensity, with the girls rarely being left alone and their captors moving them while keeping them under surveillance. It also teases Spencer’s past transgressions—namely an incident in Baton Rouge and what exactly happened to a schoolmate in the fifth grade. The inevitable confrontation between Spencer and the human traffickers may not be to everyone’s tastes, but its audacious over-the-top approach is certainly imaginative and not likely to be forgotten.
A disconcerting central character is adeptly balanced by a strong young girl likely to win readers’ hearts.