A teen hostage is forced to recount his battle with a home invader.
Chris is just an ordinary kid stuck in an extraordinary situation. Eight days ago an intruder found his way into Chris' home, and Chris shot him dead. Now the intruder's brother, Derek, has Chris held hostage, demanding an honest account of the fateful night and threatening to cut off a few fingers if Chris dares to lie. It's a great, flashy premise, but Johnston comes very close to squandering it. Chris is focused solely on protecting his younger brother after their father died a few years ago and their mother grew distant. It's solid motivation, but it's the only characterization Chris gets, and that one note gets old all too fast. Derek isn't much better; his most interesting attribute provides a dark mirror image of Chris, as he is haunted by his failure to protect his own brother when it counted. The author makes this mirror very explicit, which undercuts the resonance. The most problematic element of the book comes in the very end in the form of Derek's haunting, brutalized past, a pitch-black element that doesn't fit the pulpy tone of the rest of the novel. Even in a book with the threat of torture and gunplay, this darkness is one step too far.
A crackerjack idea hobbled by weak characters and the author’s heavy hand. (Thriller. 12-16)