Katzenbach (The Madman’s Tale, 2004, etc.) sets an amateur sleuth living on borrowed time to hunt a kidnapped teenager whose time is even shorter in this pulp-ish re-imagining of “The Pit and the Pendulum” for the digital age.
Jennifer Riggins is the fourth victim her abductors have taken, and by now they’ve gotten most of the bugs out of their routine. Deftly snatching her as she’s running away from home yet again, the criminal lovers hood her and chain her in a basement in a Massachusetts farmhouse they’ve rented and put a video feed online for thousands of voyeuristic subscribers around the world who can’t stop watching the ultimate reality show. There’s only one fly in the ointment: The kidnapping was witnessed by Adrian Thomas, a retired psychology professor on his way home to kill himself after getting a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia, a rare illness that acts like Alzheimer’s speeded up. Adrian is already prone to hallucinations and short-term memory lapses, and Det. Terri Collins doesn’t find him the ideal witness. On the other hand, now that he’s summoned them from the grave, his late wife, his late brother and his late son all provide him with genuinely helpful suggestions, and it doesn’t hurt to have Jennifer, now known to her global audience as Number 4, sought by someone with absolutely nothing to lose. Leaning on Mark Wolfe, a registered sex offender, for help doing the unspeakable online research, Adrian slowly zeroes in on the basement where she’s being held. But can he rescue her from the fiendish torments her inventive captors have lined up for her?
So sadistically measured in its pace that readers will have plenty of time to ask themselves how different they really are from the perverts tuned in to Number 4’s sufferings.