When 16-year-old Danny Peters vanishes, mother Carey fears her son has run away a second time. The young man is autistic and hasn't been seen since after his dog had to be euthanized, which he took very hard. This time, though, Carey and stepfather Pete receive a photo of Danny tied to a chair. The police find one of his shoes and a cell phone. Carey's mother may be the richest woman in Bleak Harbor and possibly all of western Michigan, but she has no interest in helping her grandson or daughter. Now Carey and Pete both struggle, fearing Danny was kidnapped because of their secrets and lies. The tension mounts to a startling conclusion featuring an unconventional, intricate plot by a mastermind aware of the flawed individuals involved with the Peters family. VERDICT Gruley follows his award-winning "Starvation Lake" trilogy with another grim tale of dysfunctional people. Recommended for fans of domestic suspense.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN
Gruley bids farewell to Starvation Lake, Michigan (The Skeleton Box, 2012, etc.), to explore the equally grim kidnapping of an autistic teenager who shares the same state and much the same state of mind.
Danny Peters was something of a trial even before he disappeared. Lacking much of an affinity for other people, he was interested mainly in dragonflies, computers, and Wallace Stevens. Now he's gone off with someone who promised him a milkshake, and his mother and stepfather are agonizing about how to raise the quixotic ransom of $5.145 million by the impossibly tight deadline. Both of them have reason to worry about their ability to pull together in their hour of need. Pete Peters, who owns a medical marijuana dispensary, is hiding his off-again professional relationship with Slim, the go-between who supplied him with better product for less money than his legal sellers until all of a sudden he stopped. Carey Peters, newly promoted executive assistant, finance, at Pressman Logistics in Chicago, allowed her boss, Randall Pressman, to take her out to dinner to celebrate and then slept with him, then refused his encore invitations and responded to his attempts to trash her at work by stealing some sensitive documents that reveal his own illegal activity and demanding a hefty payoff for her silence. Working variously at odds with each other and the authorities they've defied the kidnapper by calling, Carey and Pete try to raise the ransom by leaning on Carey's hateful mother, monstrous town matriarch Serenity Meredith Maas Bleak; Oly O'Nally, the boss who fired Pete from his brokerage firm; and, of course, Randall Pressman for the cash. They all turn out to have agendas of their own. So do Danny's ex-con birth father, Jeff Bledsoe, Pete's employee Dulcy Pérez, and Pressman's henchman Quartz—not to mention Lt. Katya Malone, of the Bleak Harbor PD, and Allen Locke, of the FBI.
A deep dive into the deepest secrets of a one-family town and its leading family that sometimes gets murky, even exhausting, but is never less than enthralling. And you'll finish it with a wonderful sense that you've finally come up for air.