Sunday, October 1, 2017

Review: The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine

Most of us don't dwell on our fears if we can help it. If we did, it might paralyze us. Ask any parent, especially parents of young children, to think about it seriously though and one of their looming fears to do with their children is likely to be that their child will be kidnapped. We all know of child abduction cases that happened in our state or even our town.  They are widely reported on the news and disseminated across the globe through our Facebook feeds.  We see the ones that end well (very few) and the ones that end tragically. And too, we see the ones that have no closure even years later. Debut author, Jane Haseldine, in her thriller, the first in a series, The Last Time She Saw Him, exploits this fear, not just once but twice over.

Julia Gooden is a successful crime reporter who is taking a leave of absence from her job after a case comes up that is too close to her own past, triggering what few memories she has of the last day she saw her brother. When Julia was seven, her nine year old brother and protector, Ben, was snatched from the bedroom they shared. Julia doesn't remember anything about the awful night itself and Ben was never found. She's never given up searching for him and the terrible thing that happened has changed the way she lives her life. Now 37, Julia has two young sons of her own, Logan and Will, and her extreme overprotectiveness of them, her inability to allow them any freedom at all, has crippled her, embarrasses her older son, and is tearing her marriage apart. On leave from her job and newly separated from her husband, Julia takes the boys to their lake house but, even there, she can't block out the horror in her past or conquer the fear with which she has always lived.

If Julia thought the lake house would be safer for her boys, she soon finds she's mistaken and the unthinkable happens. Thirty years to the day that her brother was taken, her 2 year old son Will is also snatched from his crib. Certain that her brother's long ago abduction and Will's abduction are connected because of a similarity at the crime scene, Julia is frantic to beat the clock and locate her baby before something even worse can happen to him. She uses all of the skills she's honed over the years as an investigative reporter to try and help the police track down Will and his abductors. The inspector in charge of the case is an old lover, and now friend of long standing, of Julia's, Ray Navarro. A pedophile TV evangelist, Reverend Cahill, who is in jail in large part thanks to Julia's dogged research into his crimes, claims he's received letters about Will's abduction. A psychic is called in to consult on the case, much to Julia's dismay, and her long estranged, scam artist of an older sister also shows up to complicate Julia's waking nightmare.

Julia as a character is determined and strong but also forever marked by the tragedy of her brother's kidnapping. She barrels through the investigation, certain of her own hunches and refusing to be shut out. Even the reader can find her brusque and foolhardy at times. She narrates her own story so it is a little bit strange that the beginning of the novel feels so slow and draggy, not picking up until well after Will's abduction. Julia herself is a well fleshed out character but the other pivotal characters in the novel aren't as fully drawn, perhaps because they are presented from Julia's point of view. The tension of the novel does pick up as it moves along, eventually reaching a crescendo. The ending turns into a nightmarish farce of insanity and pure evil that ends up being totally unsatisfying given the believability and tautness of the plot up until that point. Despite the madness and unbelievability of the ending, there is some promise here for readers of mysteries and thrillers who want to see how Haseldine progresses as a writer.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this to review.

1 comment:

  1. Good review, but I have to confess that I have never worried about my kids being kidnapped by strangers. I've had occasional qualms about my ex taking them on vacations in foreign lands, but somehow the idea that random people would grab them has never caused me a moment's concern. I guess I didn't think they were that magnetic?


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