A young boy’s kidnapping affects the lives of his family members and an investigating detective in Holborn’s (The Roadrunner, 2017, etc.) thriller.
Eight-year-old Gabriel Wheeler’s home life in the town of Fenny is less than ideal. His mother, Celine, is an alcoholic, and she and her professional Elvis-impersonator boyfriend largely neglect him. He’s determined to play his role in his elementary school’s Winter Extravaganza, so he braves a trek through a raging blizzard alone. At the school, a man named Willard Crawley kidnaps the meek boy without any other adults noticing. Detective Harvey Sam leads an extensive search for the child, but he’s distracted by the sudden departure of his girlfriend, Pam, who took his beloved stepdaughter, Effie, with her. After years of isolation in a house in the woods, Willard is mentally unsound and often sees visions of his brother, Terrance, who died as an infant. He also believes that Gabriel is his late brother and seems intent on keeping the boy close. Next door is a woman named Chase Solomon who’s maintaining a low profile due to a warrant for marijuana possession and bail jumping. She has a chance to help Gabriel, but at the risk of her own freedom. Holborn’s story is dark but gripping. Willard is an unquestionably scary, well-established villain, and Gabriel is a sympathetic victim whose safety is always in question. Most of the characters are unlikable, but Celine’s deplorable apathy is particularly fascinating; she seems to care most about garnering sympathy and convincing others that Harvey is “useless.” Chase, who first appears in the book’s second half, shines as the reluctant good Samaritan. She proves to be even more interesting in the book’s “bonus sequel”—a Chase-starring short crime story, “The Roadrunner,” which involves a potential romance and cute puppies.
A grim but steadily suspenseful novel.