Seven years ago, five-year-old Lexie Mason vanished and her mother Sarah was left to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Then one hot August night, Sarah picks up the telephone to hear a child’s terrified voice whispering, “Mommy, come get me. I’m scared…” The call is cut off, but not before Sarah’s heart soars. The voice belongs to Lexie.
Sarah goes to the police, the FBI, friends and her co-workers at the Beaufort County, South Carolina Prosecutor’s Office, but none of them can help. Desperate, she turns to Jake Hogan, her closest friend in the world, the man who has stood by her throughout the long years of searching. Jake is now a private investigator and though he is skeptical – convinced that someone is deliberately tormenting the grief-stricken mother – the attraction he feels for Sarah makes him join her search.
Lexie may still be alive – and they may be able to rescue her.
This is the first time I’m reading something by Karen Robards and I find her writing style engaging and uncomplicated, which renders this book a fast read.
To tell this story with a grave subject matter – child abduction – she combines wit, sensuality and fast-paced action with grimness and tension. The wit defuses much of the despair and melancholy that such a story tends to carry, hence this is a way lighter and gentler story than Linda Howard’s Cry No More, which also has child abduction as the subject matter.
I must say that I am impressed with, and enjoyed, the wit much more than the suspense and romance. I particularly enjoyed Jake’s eighty-six-year-old, bald and motorcycle dude of a happening grandfather. Also Sarah’s ugly, eighty-plus pounds dog with a very bad attitude, Sweetie-Pie. These two provide much of the humour of the story. One particular laughter-inducing scene involves Jake, Sweetie-Pie and an alligator named Molly.
The villain who took Sarah's daughter is unexpected and seems to come out of nowhere. There are no hints to his identity before the big reveal. I did, however, suspect Sarah’s co-worker is somewhat guilty. The author ties up the story neatly in the end, with all questions answered...but perhaps too neatly. The ending feels rushed and too pat - I feel the author took the easy way out.
Issues that bothered me:
1. I feel that it is quite implausible Jake can remain a platonic friend to Sarah for seven years, and not show his love and sexual attraction to her. If she were married or involved with another man, yes. But she was free and single all that time; the only barrier being her grief over the unsolved disappearance of her daughter. It’s more believable if the time period were shorter, say, two to four years. And I can't believe she has absolutely no idea of his feelings for her - where's her woman's instincts?
2. The villain is filming Sarah on the day her daughter disappears. He is right there in front of her, with only the bottom half of his face visible, while she frantically searches for her daughter. I’m not convinced that the villain will take this risk of being recognized later. And Sarah still remembers his features years later - by then, he isn’t a stranger to her - only, she doesn't conclude it's him.
3. At the beginning of the story, Sarah is held at gun-point during a robbery. She is having lots of flippant thoughts regarding her situation and the two robbers. It may very well be her survival mechanism kicking into place, but I just don't think anyone can have such frivolous thoughts when a gun is pointing at her face.
All in all, this is a fast, pleasant read, which I am rather surprised about, given the serious subject matter. Towards the last quarter of the book, when the suspense is at its climax, it is a palpitating page-turner.
My rating 3 Sensuality rating Warm