Pros: Decent characters, plenty of tension
Cons: Odd way of unfurling a mystery
Rating: 3 out of 5
Review ebook provided free by publisher via NetGalley.
Expected publication date: June 2, 2015
In Jonathon King’s Don’t Lose Her (The Max Freeman Mysteries) federal judge Diane has been kidnapped–a situation made all the more dire because she’s in the last month of her pregnancy. Her husband Billy, a lawyer has a ton of markers to call in, and Max, a PI and friend, to call on. The feds, of course, want them to stay out of things, but there isn’t a chance in hell of that happening. Unfortunately there’s been no ransom demand, and there are precious few clues to be had.
The people who kidnapped pregnant Diane aren’t overly cruel–as long as she keeps her hood on and does what they want her to do, they leave her largely alone. However, the rule is that none of the kidnappers can speak within her hearing. There’s one particular person, Rae, who has babysitting duties. Rae is independent, annoyed by having to take care of this woman (also annoyed with Diane’s perceived ‘whininess’)–yet at the same time, she does what she needs to in order to care for Diane and her baby. Rae is one of the point of view characters, which gives a very interesting view on the bad guys and what’s happening with Diane. This contrasts nicely with Max’s efforts, conclusions, and assumptions. It gives everyone a deeper level of characterization than there would otherwise be.
The real problem–for Max and Billy and, in a lesser way, us as readers–is that there’s no hint of a motive for the kidnapping. There are no ransom demands. Diane’s jailers don’t even speak to her, so they certainly aren’t making threats. On the one hand, this draws out the mystery, which is usually a good thing. Usually mysteries get drawn out, however, by providing multiple possible motives, enemies, or outcomes. In this case we had virtually nothing. There was a tiny incident partway through that, if you’re paying attention, you’ll realize indicates who’s actually behind everything. Not because there’s any real in-plot reason to think he’s done it, but simply because plot structure demands it.
Ideally when reading a mystery you get small hints and red herrings. It builds up until you start guessing what’s going on, and once you find out, you’re hopefully left smacking your forehead and calling yourself an idiot for not seeing it sooner. In this case however, there’s nothing for you to see. There’s no sense later of having figured something cool out. We weren’t kept in mystery by delightful sleight-of-hand; we were kept in mystery by a simple lack of any knowledge. It’s much less satisfying.
Thus, the characters were interesting, the setup was neat, and I enjoyed the milieu. But the author left us hanging with no sense of progress throughout most of the book.