Another of Gilstrap’s innocent families duels with police, the FBI, and serious druglords over the child they’ve reluctantly kidnapped.
It happens like this. Because William Simpson can’t pay back the thousand-plus dollars of scary Patrick Logan’s drug money he’s lifted, Logan very sensibly hires Jacob and Samuel Stanns, a pair of dumb-and-dumber thugs, to kidnap Simpson’s stepson Justin, hold him for a week while Simpson comes up with the scratch, and then kill him if he hasn’t. But while the thugs are minding their own business burying the kid alive in West Virginia’s Catoctin National Forest, he incontinently runs off and into the arms of Bobby and Susan Martin, weekend campers trying to rekindle their marital romance after their fourth miscarriage. Bobby miraculously kills Jacob, then, unwilling to tell his unlikely story to the cops, takes off with Susan and Justin in tow—only to find to his horror that his numbly bereaved wife believes that this child is hers. Meantime, Justin’s real mother, April Simpson, realizing that her shiftless husband has put her beloved son in danger, frantically calls on both Logan and his even scarier overlord Carlos Ortega, the old school chum she hasn’t seen since he tried to rape her—little knowing her pleas to them both will set in motion a disastrous new chain of events. Back in Catoctin, the FBI is analyzing the trace evidence that will bring them to the Martins’ doorstep, not knowing that their job would be a lot easier if only they’d found the one piece of paper tucked into Samuel Stanns’s pocket.
Reading Gilstrap’s third and most accomplished suspenser (At All Costs, 1998, etc.) is like listening to an all-menace radio station in which everyone everywhere is in maximum danger during every minute of the incredibly compressed 24 hours of the story. Think Mary Higgins Clark with teeth.