A novel that revolves around every parent’s nightmare—a child who goes missing and months later turns up dead.
Dan Sandler is a fairly typical, though privileged, 14-year-old. He’s an only child of professional parents, his father a businessman involved in the construction of a new development and his mother a cellist for the New York Philharmonic. The family lives in The Hollow outside Smithfield, Mass., and their status as outsiders is important to the narrative. One Saturday Dan is home, and later that afternoon he’s missing. The anguished parents call on Sammons, the local police chief, to look into the case, but they are angered with his procedural regimen and suspect that he’s not overly competent—before now he’s never faced a crime of this magnitude. Sigel keeps us focused on the parents, Joshua and Nathalie, who endure two versions of hell: first not knowing the fate of their son, and then finding out his fate. They develop different and incompatible ways of coping with the mystery of their son’s disappearance. Nathalie withdraws, is unable to practice or perform and grows increasingly distant from her husband, while Joshua is obsessed and starts to become his own law-enforcement officer, stopping cars on the street near where his son disappeared and questioning passing motorists. As weeks become months, suspicion begins to surround several of Dan’s acquaintances, including Bobby Dawes, local stud and all-around bad boy; Sam Bonacio, a shy 15-year-old who’s been having violent arguments with his father; and the precocious Melanie, who alternately teased and tempted Dan. Joshua eventually finds out that his son had a secret life that involved meeting friends for pot-smoking and beer-drinking, and Nathalie’s understandable emotional distance drives her husband into the arms of Irina, a local waitress.
Sigel’s control over the delicate material rescues the novel from melodrama.