A gripping, intricately plotted psychological thriller, full of subtle twists.
Allen Carmichael (a minor character from King’s Folly, 2001) works outside the law as a “kidnapper,” abducting abused children and, with the help of an underground network run by an enigmatic woman named Alice, placing them with complicit foster families. Just as you’re absorbing this scenario, the story flashes back to Allen’s harrowing tenure in Vietnam. During his yearlong hitch, he witnesses the brutal killing or maiming of all his buddies. After discharge, there’s a period of homelessness, a failed marriage, and a series of unsuccessful jobs before he finds salvation helping at-risk kids. He also reunites with brother Jerry (a sheriff) and builds a romantic relationship with a sea-loving woman named Rae (a central figure in Folly), aboard her boat, the Orca Queen. On the brink of retirement, Allen is drawn into one last case, a sensitive and dangerous one. Twelve-year-old Jamie O’Connell, a computer fanatic, suffers physical and emotional torture at the hands of his charismatic father Mark, a high-powered southern California entrepreneur. Jamie’s early years were studded with tragedy: the suicide of his mother, the drowning of a friend, a raging fire at his school. He escapes to the Internet, where his handle is Deadboy. Allen abducts Jamie with nary a hitch, taking him to Montana and the farm of Peter and Rachel Johnson. Jamie’s progress with the Johnsons is slow but steady, and Allen, meanwhile, digs into Jamie’s early years and Mark’s elusive business: and uncovers myriad disturbing facts that force him to postpone his retirement and return to Montana—before it’s too late.
The gritty Vietnam section constitutes a rewarding novella itself, and King’s shrewd use of it as the seminal period in the hero’s life gives a devastating and surprising spin to a familiar genre. And there’s more: multidimensional characters at every level and complex plotting earn the true application of that overused tag psychological thriller.