A tense debut action-thriller that hinges on a pair of related kidnappings.
At the start of Jacobs’ taut novel, Tsarina “Tsara” Abrams lives comfortably in the New England suburbs with her husband, David Adelman, and their two kids, Abbie and Josh. One day, she receives an engraved invitation from her uncle, businessman Castle Thornlocke, to attend a charity fundraiser at the palatial Thornlocke estate in Libertyville, N.H. The fundraiser is for a worthy cause, a cancer center, and Tsara’s brother Court has also been invited. Their relationship with their uncle has always been tense and adversarial, but it seems that Uncle Cass’ new wife, Alicia, has mellowed him somewhat, and Tsara believes that his invitation might be an attempt to mend fences. She makes the trip to the New Hampshire mountains, and at first, all seems well—but her first night under her uncle’s roof, she’s kidnapped by two men and brought to a remote cabin in the woods. They explain that her uncle is holding one of the kidnappers’ children hostage (along with half a dozen others’) in his estate’s wine cellar in order to coerce them into paying outstanding debts. Her uncle, it seems, is a ruthless power broker, with the corrupt local police entirely at his disposal, and Tsara’s desperate kidnappers see no alternative but to threaten him using similar methods. Jacobs presents the ensuing tense moral and tactical standoff with smooth skill and intense readability. Her sense of the New Hampshire landscape is vividly atmospheric (“The sky was azure, wisped with occasional brushes of clouds, and the trees were rocket bursts of fall color”), and her characters are refreshingly three-dimensional; by the end, Jacobs even makes a monstrous villain such as Thornlocke understandable, if not sympathetic. The novel is fast-paced right from the end of the first chapter, and the dialogue is crisply believable throughout. Fans of mystery writers such as Lisa Scottoline and William Kent Krueger will find much to entertain them here.
An intelligent, thought-provoking adventure story and a fine debut.