Veteran thrillmeister Deaver kicks off a new series about a man who collects rewards for a living.
Don’t call Colter Shaw a private eye, or a freelance investigator, or even a soldier of fortune, though his job includes elements of all three. The son of a cranky survivalist who died years ago amid suspicious circumstances, light-footed Shaw has returned close to his childhood home in the Bay Area in the hope of claiming the $10,000 Frank Mulliner is offering for the return of his daughter, Sophie, a college student who stormed out after the two of them fought over the FOR SALE sign outside his house and hasn’t been seen since. Shaw, who has the cool-headed but irritating habit of calculating the numerical odds on every possibility, thinks there’s a 60 percent chance that Sophie’s dead, “murdered by a serial killer, rapist or a gang wannabe.” Even though he accepts rewards only for rescues, not recoveries, he begins sorting through the scant evidence, quickly gets a hot lead about Sophie’s fate, and just as quickly realizes that Detective Dan Wiley, of the Joint Major Crimes Task Force, should have followed exactly the same clues days ago. (The rapidly shifting relations between Shaw and the law, in fact, are a particular high point here.) The day after Shaw’s search for Sophie comes to a violent end, he’s already, in the time-honored manner of Deaver’s bulldog heroes (The Burial Hour, 2017, etc.), on the trail of a second abduction, that of LGBT activist Henry Thompson. Readers who haven’t skipped the prologue will know that still a third kidnap victim, very pregnant Elizabeth Chabelle, will need to be rescued the following day. Thompson’s grief-stricken partner, Brian Byrd, tells Shaw, “It’s like this guy’s playing some goddamn sick game”—a remark Deaver’s fans will know to give just as much weight as Shaw himself does.
For once Deaver takes more effort to establish his hero’s bona fides than to give him a compelling and logical plot. The results are subpar for this initial installment but more encouraging for the promised series.