Novelists should be wary of titles that inescapably will tempt reviewers to make puns. This book is not much touch and go as touch and go on and on and on and on….It was fine, just a tad leisurely in the telling. Nigh on 700 pages to cover a kidnapping that plays out over a few days do seem a bit generous.
It is not a bad story. The sudden abduction from a fabulous Boston home of a beautiful, seemingly loving (ha!) family is a good springboard for a story set against the background of the ongoing credit crunch. It is no accident Mister Wonderful (aka Justin Denbe) runs a construction company and the reader begins to suspect financial worries link to (if not explain) the horrific events in the novel. The financial details make sense and are woven skilfully into the Denbe’s personal life fraught with betrayal, lies, sexual peccadilloes and others. The set-up is solid - flipping between a first-person narrative of abductee Libby Denbe and a third-person take from the perspective of Tessa Leoni, a one-time cop, now investigator, who is tasked with helping track down the Denbes.
Leoni is an interesting character and her back story is great. The Denbes feel less fully fleshed out despite readers following the kidnapping from the very intimate perspective of the materfamilias also suffering enforced detox from pain meds. Their story unveils slowly through the investigation into how and why the kidnapping occurred and this is artfully done. The Denbes and their teenager daughter just are not complex enough to warrant so many pages, in this reviewer’s view.
The plot has some nifty elements – the Denbes are seconded to an unused prison site and you can hear the echoes of their footsteps and the slams of heavy gates as well as taste the dull food they are forced to consume. I had pretty much figured out the why before Gardner unveiled it. A good yarn, indeed, but not nearly as shocking or suspenseful as advertised.