Life is good for William Keats. A recent inheritance from his well-known ventriloquist father has made it possible for him to take a break from his job counseling school kids, and his lover, teacher Adrienne Owsley, has agreed to buy a house together and make a home for Olivia, her eight-year-old daughter. Olivia loves Roogy Batoon, the pony Will gave her, as much as she loves reading about the Land of Oz. So it’s ironically appropriate that whoever kidnapped her during a Georgia storm decoyed Will by setting Roogy Batoon free. The truck Will saw passing by shortly before gives the police an early lead on Polk James, an ex-con whose mother is evidently the only person around who thinks her son never could’ve done such a thing. But the lead peters out when James’s truck is found abandoned. Not even the FBI can make anything happen. Weeks pass without a word, not even a ransom demand from abductors who ought to know what Will can pay. Then the Thanksgiving dinner Will and Adrienne are sharing with her family in New Hampshire is shattered by the news that James has been found murdered. Things look dark for Olivia—unless Will can somehow join forces with Olivia’s hated father, Byron Owsley, to track her down through a swampy landscape that’s heavy on atmosphere but lacks a single surprise.
Pseudonymous Lawson (Would It Kill You to Smile, not reviewed) manages to create a kidnapping whose pace is so glacial, and whose events and people are so routine, that you’ll be hard-pressed to care what becomes of poor little Olivia.