When his son goes missing, a successful young businessman searches for him as his own life falls apart.
Newell’s taut, well-constructed debut family drama centers on 32-year-old Gus Delaney, the youngest hedge fund manager in Boston’s Elysium Fund. In 1977, he’s a well-intentioned but vain and somewhat strutting young father of two children, Jack and Lilly, who spend most of their time with Gus’ ex-wife, Victoria, a shrill woman still bitter about the divorce. The novel opens on one such tense scene: it’s Christmas Eve, snow has started falling, and Victoria is hours late arriving to Gus’ house with the children, which causes an awkward family scene once she and the children finally show up. Gus and Victoria are blindsided when Jack disappears the following day, abducted by a messianic religious cult. Giving Jack the new name Augustine, the cult’s overseers forcibly induct him into their ranks, telling him his mother is dead and that only his obedience to their orders will guarantee the continued survival of his father and sister. As a police investigation in the suburb of Boston ramps up and gradually turns its attention to Gus as a possible suspect, Newell skillfully cuts back and forth between the dismantling of Gus’ life and the construction of Jack’s new life. Some of the secondary characters can seem a bit flat as the narrative moves them around the chessboard of a plot, but more effective are the portraits of Gus—his deterioration, then the slow climb to a new understanding of himself—and especially the cult and their creepy inner workings. Jump-cutting between scenes keeps the story gripping even in more utilitarian chapters, and the police investigation and missing child case—conducted without the aid of modern technology—feel authentic in every detail.
First-rate thriller in the vein of Joseph Finder.