SJI Holliday has been reading crime fiction since she was able to hold a book. She writes short stories and her debut novel, Black Wood was published in spring 2015. You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com.
It's every parent's worst nightmare …Stephanie Harker is travelling through the security gates at O'Hare airport, on her way to an idyllic holiday. Five-year-old Jimmy goes through the metal detector ahead of her. But then, in panic and disbelief, Stephanie watches as a uniformed agent leads her boy away…
The story starts with a straightforward enough premise – a young boy is abducted in a busy airport, and with some of the things that happen in airports nowadays, this could potentially have gone anywhere. Things take an altogether unusual turn though, when it becomes clear that the young boy, Jimmy, is not the son of the woman who was getting ready to board an internal flight from Chicago O’Hare. Due to the nature of the abduction, the FBI soon becomes involved and the clock is ticking to find Jimmy before it’s too late.
Then things go off in a completely different direction, as Stephanie Harker – the boy’s guardian – recounts the story of how Jimmy came to be in her care. Stephanie, a ghost writer, was employed by the boy’s mother to write her ‘autobiography’ and in the midst of that formed an unlikely friendship with the woman, whom the press dubbed ‘Scarlett the Harlot’. Add in Stephanie’s abusive relationship and stalker-ish ex, and as events start to unfurl, it seems there can only one person who could have abducted Jimmy.
This is one of those books with a slow-burn middle sandwiched between a gripping beginning and a fast paced and highly unexpected ending that makes you want to kick yourself, thinking ‘why didn’t I spot those clues’. A great read for a lazy Sunday afternoon from a highly accomplished author who clearly plans to keep her readers on their toes. If you’ve never read McDermid before, you could do a lot worse than to start with this one – but you should be aware that the tone and style of this book is a lot less dark than the author’s previous novels. It might either repel or attract you, depending on your preference for gore.