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HELPLESS by Daniel Palmer

HELPLESS

By Daniel Palmer

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7582-4665-3
Publisher: Kensington

Following his ex-wife's murder, things go from terrible to worse for New Hampshire high-school soccer coach Tom Hawkins, who is falsely implicated in a child-pornography ring, accused of sleeping with his 16-year-old daughter Jill's best friend and targeted by an old military pal who was involved in smuggling heroin from Germany with the dead wife.

The book opens with Lindsey, Jill's friend, bowing to her boyfriend's pressure to sext him nude shots on her cell phone. The photos end up on a child-porn website that computer shenanigans link to Tom, whose daughter was already mad enough at him thanks to all the terrible things her mother told her about him. Now his careful campaign to win her back seems doomed, as are his efforts to convince the school that the kids are safe with him. Tom was a Navy SEAL stationed in Germany when his Army-enlisted future wife, a former high-school girlfriend, hid millions worth of drugs in his baggage for the trip home. Now their long-unheard-from third wheel overseas appears on the scene to skulk in the shadows, threaten Tom and whack him around. That sort of thing has been happening to Coach a lot lately, what with his old high school nemesis being the cop assigned to the case and other town folk wanting bad things to happen to this good person. Good thing he knows how to break out of a meat refrigerator. Palmer's thriller is nothing if not topical, and it's got enough plot for two novels. But the plot turns stretch for believability. Tom is too bland to attract the interest of an attractive FBI agent. And the novel is longer than it needs to be.

The teenagers are sympathetic and believable, leading one to think that the book might have been better had they played a bigger role.