Magee, a multimedia professional (photojournalist, screenwriter, producer), pens a debut novel that combines literary and suspense writing in a mostly successful story concerning marriage, doubt and a high-profile kidnapping.
When nine-year-old Sarah, the only child of Swedish-raised Lena, a physician, and her husband, David, climbs on board the van that is supposed to take her and three other children to summer camp, Lena already has misgivings: She’s not too sure that Sarah will like camp, even though her best friend, Linda, is also going. But Lena and David need some time to repair their marriage, so she reluctantly helps Sarah pack and sends her off when the camp van and driver show up to collect her. Problem is, once Sarah leaves, a second van appears, also ready to collect Sarah. Lena discovers that not only have her daughter and Linda apparently been kidnapped, but so have two boys, the son of a local construction contractor and the child of a minister married to a banking official. Together, the four kids travel deep into the wilderness with a man they know only as Mr. Everett, who blindfolds the quartet and marches them to a remote and primitive cabin in the woods. There, a chance meeting with a hiker changes the equation and, suddenly, what looked like a straightforward kidnapping forces the children to make a decision that could cost them their lives. Magee’s characters are well drawn, but his law-enforcement officers often behave implausibly and obvious clues are steadfastly ignored both by cops and other characters. These bothersome lapses distract readers who would prefer to stay caught up in the action—and there is enough action to keep the plot moving forward—but who must reluctantly stop and wonder why no one connected the dots.
Magee’s got the writing chops, and he knows how to weave a good story, but this premiere effort could have benefited from a little less improvisation and a little more research into police procedure.