After witnessing the abduction of a young child in Hoboken, New Jersey, a woman begins to channel her inner Neanderthal in this genre-bending mystery.
It’s hard not to like Bronwyn Bloom, the protagonist of Rhodes’ debut novel. A paleoanthropologist teaching at New York University and a divorced mother of two sons, she descends from a Welsh family that’s always believed they were part Neanderthal. She’s hypersensitive to the world around her and afraid that some might call her “neurotic.” One day, on her way to work, she notices a young woman ushering a small boy into a van. Something seems vaguely off, so she jots down part of the van’s license plate before she continues on her way. When she receives an Amber Alert on her cellphone about Ian Waltham’s disappearance, she contacts the police department to share what little information she has with Detective Victor Cabrera. Haunted by the kidnapping and guilt-stricken over not having done something to stop it, Bronwyn gets involved in the investigation, which ultimately puts her life in jeopardy. She also undergoes “a transgenerational ancestor regression” to access her inherited memories after being egged on to do so by her friend James, a professor of anthropology and an expert in “the healing techniques of the Peruvian shamans.” She begins to experience dreams and visions that depict the experiences of a young Neanderthal woman. As these increase in frequency and intensity, so do Bronwyn’s extrasensory perceptions. Rhodes plays with the provocative theory that human DNA contains not just physical properties, but collective memories as well. She’s also apparently done considerable research on what’s known or hypothesized about Neanderthal life, which allows her to give Bronwyn’s fantasy flights 40,000 years into the past an air of authenticity. As a result, the Neanderthal subplot becomes just as engaging as the present-day crime story. Rhodes builds her first-person narrative carefully, beginning gently by introducing secondary characters and providing descriptions of Hoboken’s transition from working-class neighborhoods to trendy enclaves. Gradually, the pace and tension accelerate, and the book becomes a true page-turner.
An enjoyable, satisfying escape with a unique twist.