The plucky mother of a kidnapped child and a jaded ex-cop join forces to snare a sadistic child killer, in this latest by true- crime writer (Esther, 1994) and historical novelist (Star of Empire, 1992) Sanders. Widowed Manhattanite Rachel Shelby is driving her two children across country when her car is blindsided in a small Oklahoma town. She wakes up in the hospital to discover that her daughter is missing. It seems that Suzanne, a pint-sized 11-year-old and star of a hit movie, disappeared in the chaos surrounding the fiery wreck. Frustrated with the local cops, Rachel hires Booker Reeves, a retired detective, to help find her daughter. Booker's research quickly uncovers a number of cases that seem related--young girls who have been snatched in broad daylight in the region. Several bodies have been discovered: One had an odd bite mark, another was covered in something like saliva. And many more were never found. Cut to Suzanne in her abductor's barn, next to a caged 32-foot python. (Guess where those missing bodies went.) It appears that the snake man, a heroin addict, is aroused by others' fear. Dr. Patricia McMahon, a forensic psychiatrist, is brought into the investigation: She and Booker concoct the scheme of advertising a reward for information on billboards. Rachel mans the phones and establishes contact with the snake man, who indeed takes the bait. Too wily to think that he could get away with the money, he shoots his way into Rachel's hotel room, hoping to find it there. But the money is in a local bank. He kidnaps Rachel and brings her back to the barn for a complicated climatic showdown. Booker, meanwhile, is working the snake angle (thanks to the bite on that earlier victim), but will he show up in time to save Rachel? A grisly but well-oiled page turner, marred by an over-the-top ending.