This first novel in a new series by Mapes is a character study of three men, interwoven with action and suspense. Jack is an investigative reporter for a newspaper in a relatively small town in Ohio. He is assigned the story of Evan, a pastor who has disappeared, having left what appears to be a suicide note. But Jack's life is interrupted by a break-in at his home. His wife, Pam, and two young daughters manage to escape to neighbors. But the break-in is not a one time event. The man stalks Pam and the suspense heightens. It comes to light that the stalker is someone Pam knew in high school, a maladjusted student named Granger.
As the novel progresses, we follow the lives of Jack, Evan, and Granger. Of particular importance is the spiritual lives of these men. Jack is a good Christian but struggles with his belief in God when Pam is kidnapped. Evan is a pastor who struggles with depression. He is overwhelmed with the problems at his church and is devastated that he has experienced romantic feelings for a widow he was counseling. Granger had a horrible childhood, being mistreated by his overly strict and narrow minded Christian parents. He remembers Pam as the only person who was nice to him so now, years later, he seeks her out. The lives of these three men and their actions intersect several times as the novel nears its end.
Mapes has created realistic and seriously flawed characters. Jack practically goes crazy when Pam is kidnapped. His faith in God is severely tested and he finds no comfort or peace from that faith. Evan has recently taken himself off his depression medication and is making irrational decisions.
Granger is probably the most troubling character to me. He was raised in a Christian home but by parents who must have hated him. His father was a deacon in the church but a mean man. Granger was terribly scarred by his “Christian” parents. I was troubled that church going, Bible believing Christians would be portrayed as so mean and horrible.
The character that I liked the least was Pam, Jack's wife. I find that an author writing a character of the opposite sex sometimes gets it wrong and I think Mapes did that with Pam. She is generally a smart and competent woman but there were times when she made the most stupid decisions. As a woman myself, I would never drive by the childhood home of the person stalking me, especially knowing that he was on the run and might, in fact, go back to that home.
And that brings up another issue that bothered me. There is a great deal of suspense in this novel. The suspense at the end was great. However, much of that suspense, especially with Pam, was because of stupid choices. I love it when the “innocent” character is in dire straits through no fault of her own and the suspense builds as rescue seems impossible. But when the person has made a stupid decision, putting herself into the dire straits, well, somehow the suspense looses its impact.
While the ending seemed contrived, there was the undercurrent of God orchestrating the whole thing so it was acceptable.
People who like suspense will like this novel. Be prepared, however, for pages of the characters thinking at length about their situation. Also, be prepared to see many Christians not at their best.
Creston Mapes is a best-selling author of three previous novels. He works from home as copywriter and editor for some of the nation's top media companies, Christian ministries, and large corporations. He has also ghostwritten and edited seven non-fiction titles. See more at www.CrestonMapes.com.
David C. Cook, 448 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.