Atria, Apr 2004, 25.00, 400 pp.
The relationship between Jess and Mike Sullivan was once loving and caring, but now is a battlefield. The person hurt most by the constant war is their five year old daughter Sarah who is pulled by both her parents in a tug of war. Each uses the little girl as a hostage as both adults want freedom from a failed marriage.
Jess fears for Sarah's safety and accordingly tries to protect her from life's viciousness while Mike believes children need to be knocked down to learn how to survive in an uncaring world. In Belham, near Boston, Mike takes Sarah sleigh riding, an action that Jess bans as unsafe. Sarah wants to ride down the steep hill by herself and though he has doubts Mike gives in to the nagging. Sarah goes to the top by herself, but vanishes. No one knows what happened to the little girl.
For the next five years Mike wallowed in guilt while Jess remained irate with the world. The police think a disgraced Catholic priest, Francis Jonah, caused the disappearance of two other little girls and probably Sarah, but lack enough evidence to win in court. Mike, enraged that Francis Jonah may escape, thinks he must act as judge, juror, and executioner.
This tale is a chilling tale that is every parent's nightmare. The parents elicit much sympathy from readers for their plight and will understand Mike's feelings of guilt and his need for revenge. There is enough action to satisfy thriller fans but the author doesn't stint on characterizations. Readers will feel as if they know and care about many of the characters whose guilt is slowly destroying him. Chris Mooney pens another winner.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner