Cryptic clues in a Web comic put a Seattle teenager onto the trail of a deranged kidnapper and his victim.
Three years after the (supposed) drowning of bosom friend Libby, 16-year-old May is shocked to see new stickers and other merch for “Princess X,” an intrepid swordswoman in a puff-sleeved dress and sneakers that she and Libby had privately invented in fifth grade. The princess’s recently posted online adventures tell a scary tale about escaping from a “Needle Man” years after being stolen as a replacement for his own dead daughter. They leave May convinced that Libby is still alive—hiding out from her clever, relentless captor and imbedding veiled messages in the comic that only May would catch. Said hints lead May and Trick, a hacker dude she goes to for help, on a quest through the city’s seedier and underground quarters to encounters with Jackdaw (a gay, goth Robin Hood) and a desperate scheme to steal proof of the Needle Man’s perfidy. Priest cranks the suspense somewhat by casting the kidnapper as both an IT expert and a killer, but because he mostly appears only in the emotionally charged, sparely drawn purple-and-black comics pages that Ciesemier scatters through the tale’s first two-thirds, he remains, at best, a shadowy bogeyman.
Promising elements aplenty, but they never fully mesh or deliver more than a passing chill. (Thriller. 11-14)