First-time novelist Michael S. Patterson has, in "The Family Man" [MacAdam/Cage Publishing, 356 pages, $24}, revealed himself as a writer to watch.
After suffering several years of infertility, Eric and Ellen Sommers are ecstatic to learn she is pregnant and their hopes for a family are coming true. But even as they plan for the arrival of the child, they come under the scrutiny of Frank Mallory. Mallory has lost one family and he decides Ellen and her unborn child will be the perfect replacements. But Mallory must get Eric out of the way before beginning Ellen's initiation in her new life as his wife and mother of his child.
Mallory's skillful abduction of Ellen sets Eric up to be arrested for her murder. Though the evidence against him is circumstantial, Eric's defense is weaker, and much to Mallory's glee, it looks like Eric's conviction is assured. Ellen, bound, gagged and transported deep into the woods of British Columbia, watches as her chances of escape slip away under Mallory's careful planning. And her fear grows as Mallory's hair-trigger temper alternates with sweet sentimentality almost simultaneously.
" 'See, sweetheart, everything is fine,' Frank moved his hand down to stroke Ellen's cheek. She screamed.
"Now he had to punish her. She needed to learn her new role in their relationship. He stood at the head of this family. Frank raised his hand and struck Ellen across the face...He hit her again and again, his open hand closing into a fist...
" 'Please, I'm pregnant,' Ellen begged.
" 'I know. I'm sorry,' Frank said as he sat back."
Frank Mallory is a truly menacing character and one worth hating. The claustrophobic prisons, whether real or psychological, in which Patterson traps his characters resonate deeply and keep the pages turning.