Scott Miller has everything he’s ever hoped for. He has a successful marriage to Jessie, a stunningly beautiful, creative woman. His seventeen-year-old daughter, Ashley, is both gorgeous and intelligent and has just been accepted to the University of Notre Dame, where Scott received his PhD. He has a comforting home in the woods, and a fulfilling career as a college professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis. He’s blissful, and at peace, until it all comes shattering down.
Ashley is kidnapped. The scene of the abduction is horrific and bloody, and the police are convinced she couldn’t have survived. They accuse her boyfriend, Brandon, of Ashley’s murder. He declares his innocence and claims that a masked man who entered his house and overwhelmed them both took Ashley. No one believes Brandon.
Then the bodies of three other missing girls are discovered, all bearing the mark of a known serial killer the FBI has been hunting for years. Evidence mounts. As Special Agent James Duncan tracks the Hail Mary Killer, Scott and Jessie try to move on with their lives. But they can’t shake the feeling that Ashley may still be alive, and that the time for saving their only daughter is quickly running out.
From reading the blurb, I expected a psychological thriller following the exploits of a serial killer. While true in part, the major themes of this story focus on the missing girl’s parents and how they deal with the abduction and possible murder of their only child. Faith, relationships and surviving such a catastrophic event are all explored in great detail. Although absorbing, it does detract from the pursuit of the serial killer and finding the missing girl.
Predominately, the father Scott tells the story. The early chapters set the scene, recalling family events with his wife and daughter. Slow-paced these chapters seem overly detailed. When the abduction happens, it is shocking amidst the everyday family events, but a shorter first section would give the same result. I did re-read the blurb halfway through this early section, to check I was reading a serial killer novel. The crime procedural part of this story is appropriately paced and informative, the law enforcement characters are realistic.
Mainly though, this is a story of family and faith, in the face of every parents’ nightmare of losing a child. Beautifully portrayed in this story are the sense of loss, the guilt and the fear of not knowing. You feel the Scott and Jessie’s pain and wonder if you would react similarly in the given circumstances. Through the father’s relationship with the family priest, they explore faith in detail, again this is sensitively written and adds depth to the story.
The latter part of the story reveals the serial killer’s life and thoughts and those of his victim. From a third person point of view, this is written as a narrative making it hard for the reader to engage with them. Showing rather than narrating what the characters are feeling would have made them easier to empathise. The plot has many twists, not all of which are realistic, however, they do keep you guessing for the most part and have a definite graphic horror factor.
This story is a dichotomy. The central theme of a family’s emotional journey in the face of a tragic loss against a fast-paced, graphic illustration of abduction and murder. It does work for the most part and keeps you turning the pages. This a good mystery crime story with well-written suspenseful scenes and a believable serial killer.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.