Cain and Abel rematched—in a surprising and savvy departure for spymeister Morrell (Burnt Sienna, 2000, etc.).
“When I was a boy my kid brother disappeared.” When anxious suspense readers come upon an opening sentence that evocative, they breathe more easily, knowing they’re in good hands. Brad Denning, 13, tired of being followed by worshipful Petey, 9, chases Petey home from a pick-up baseball game. But he never gets home. Twenty-five years later, Brad, a successful architect, crossing a street in Denver, hears his name called by a scruffy, itinerant construction worker who proclaims himself his brother. At first, Brad is skeptical, especially since a recent appearance on a Sunday morning TV show has had bogus brothers coming out of the woodwork. But this is different. This man knows things, personal things about Brad and the family, things he couldn’t have learned from the media. Convinced, Brad takes Petey home, where Kate and Jason, Brad’s wife and son, give him a warm welcome. Brad is overjoyed. He’s found long-lost Petey and sees an opportunity to do something constructive about a quarter-century’s worth of accumulated guilt—a fantasy short-lived and brutally ended. On a camping trip, Petey pushes Brad off a ridge into a 200-foot-deep chasm and leaves him for dead. Brad manages to survive, then almost wishes he hadn’t when he discovers that Petey has kidnapped Kate and Jason. Brad understands that he’s being punished, that what he’s living through is his brother’s long and carefully calculated act of vengeance. A year passes. The FBI and assorted police forces have given up, but Brad can’t. Painstakingly, he trains himself to think like Petey, and his hunt eventually bears fruit: Cain and Able one on one yet again.
It could be argued that Petey’s monstrosity is overdone, but that would be carping. Altogether: good storytelling, neatly plotted and admirably paced, Morrell’s best in years.