Unremarkable thriller debut about an undercover agent who has to find out what’s happening on an island of dark secrets.
It takes two children to break Ethan Decker’s self-imposed exile in the New Mexico desert. Decker has gone into isolation because he blames himself for the death of his son and for the subsequent breakup of his marriage. But then Anna Kelsey arrives. Kelsey was once Decker’s partner at what is called “the Agency,” but now she brings two children who, she says, need Decker’s protection. She then skips off—only to turn up murdered. Checking her cell phone, Decker discovers that she’d tried to call his ex-wife Sydney. Fearing Sydney may be next on someone’s hit list, and realizing that he can’t “outrun fate,” Decker takes the kids, Danny (“Eleven, twelve maybe”) and the younger Callie, and rushes to Sydney in Dallas. Having won “an uphill struggle” to live alone, Sydney calls the police when Ethan appears. But she’s forced to join him when an assassin on the balcony of her apartment blasts away the officers, narrowly missing her and Ethan. She, Ethan, and the kids hit the road. Through intervening scenes on an island in the Pacific Northwest, where Danny, Callie, and other children had been sent for unexplained reasons (which a reader easily perceives), there emerge details of scientists performing strange experiments on their wards. Clever Danny, meanwhile, has hacked from Agency computers the name of an Illinois man who may be his father, and off the four go to find him. On the way, Callie develops a dangerously high fever—the result of island experiments?—and is rushed to a hospital, “where life and death balanced on a razor’s edge.” A standoff at the alleged father’s house sends Ethan racing back to the island to confront former Agency operatives. Danny tags along, Callie recovers, and Sydney edges back toward Ethan.
Only the clichés, banalities, triteness, and stereotypes quicken the pulse.