A small group deals with the fallout of a California ski-resort town whose residents have mysteriously vanished in Perry’s (Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero, 2015, etc.) thriller.
An earthquake in Mammoth View is just the beginning. Once the explosions hit, the town’s in a full-scale panic. Billy Lane and cohorts Jackson and Sam use these as diversions to rob the local bank, but a traffic jam impedes their getaway. They turn around and head up the mountain, passing through a summer running camp for girls. Billy’s teenage daughter Tori is there, but when she returns from a hot-spring dip, her fellow runners and coaches are gone. Back in Mammoth View, notorious hellion brothers Melvin and Gordon Johnson are taking advantage of the seemingly deserted town, grabbing food or whatever abandoned goods they can find. Police chief Kenneth Hicks believes the brothers are responsible for the bank robbery, not to mention the corresponding bodies. They’ve definitely kidnapped someone, as Hicks and Lt. Johnny Lloyd soon discover, and only get more desperate and dangerous when they realize the cops are after them. Tori and radio DJ Oscar Alphonse “King” Desario may be potential abductees, for leverage or something worse. The moody story benefits from its atmospheric setting. What exactly sparked an apparent evacuation, for example, isn’t fully revealed until the end. There are hints of possible causes—someone suggests a Russian invasion or perhaps aliens—all shrouded with an undercurrent of sheer creepiness, like an initially unexplained “blob” following girls at the camp. Solidly developed characters add to the tension, people either wanting to escape their past or hopelessly locked inside it. Billy, for one, longs for the days with Becky, his partner (now dead) in both crime and love and Tori’s mom, while King’s girlfriend, Janice, is itching to flee Mammoth View—and maybe the DJ as well. Various players cross paths in intriguing, sometimes amusing ways (Janice in nearby Stockton meets someone readers will recognize), and most find their ways, reluctantly or not, back to Mammoth View.
Bursting with vigor and electrified characters and with an ending the author stamps with a knowing wink.