Morrell...does it again here in riveting fashion. Scary, one-night reading with a sad, believable conclusion.
Like Robert Ludlum, Morrell began his bestselling career with short, tough action yarns (First Blood; Testament), then moved into very long, very complex conspiracy thrillers (The Brotherhood of the Rose). This modestly exciting thriller is a return to his old laconic style, but what's missing is the original plotting that has marked so much of Morrell's fiction. The novel does boast a first-rate setup: narrator Brad Denning is on top of the world, with a great career as an architect, a wonderful wife, Kate, and son, Jason, 11 never mind the trauma that scarred his youth, when his 11-year-old younger brother, Petey, was kidnapped, never to be found. Now a "rough-looking" man shows up outside Brad's Denver office, claiming to be the long-lost Petey. Brad takes Petey, who's apparently become a hard-knock drifter, into his home. Days later, Petey pushes Brad off a cliff, leaving him for dead. Battered Brad claws his way home to find Petey gone, along with the presumably kidnapped Kate and Jason. The remainder of the novel details Brad's cross-country attempt to track them down. Morrell tosses in a major complication when it appears that Petey may not be Petey after all, but few readers will be surprised by the novel's conclusion. Along the way, there are several strong action sequences, particularly one in which Brad gets trapped in a dark, snake-infested cellar, but Morrell has written this sort of pitch-black action scene before. The novel is slick, but there's little in it that's unexpected. (May 8) Forecast: Morrell's brand-name status and Warner's marketing plans should ensure that this title's lack of freshness won't dampen its sales much. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The author of such suspense novels as Desperate Measures and Black Evening has written another winner. When Brad Denning was a boy, he had a younger brother named Petey. One day at a baseball game, Brad told Petey to get lost, and Petey rode away on his bike never to be seen again. Now Brad is married and has a son almost Petey's age, a constant reminder of his lingering guilt from Petey's disappearance. On a typical morning at the office, a man confronts Brad, claiming to be his long-lost brother and tells him things only Petey could know. Is this really Petey after all these years, or is it a ruthless con man with a hidden agenda? Morrell admirably conveys the terror of losing a family member to unexplained circumstances and maintains the suspense until the last page. For all fiction collections. Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Cain and Abel rematched—in a surprising and savvy departure for spymeister Morrell (Burnt Sienna, 2000, etc.). "When I was a boy my kid brother disappeared." When anxious suspense readers come upon an opening sentence that evocative, they breathe more easily, knowing they're in good hands. Brad Denning, 13, tired of being followed by worshipful Petey, 9, chases Petey home from a pick-up baseball game. But he never gets home. Twenty-five years later, Brad, a successful architect, crossing a street in Denver, hears his name called by a scruffy, itinerant construction worker who proclaims himself his brother. At first, Brad is skeptical, especially since a recent appearance on a Sunday morning TV show has had bogus brothers coming out of the woodwork. But this is different. This man knows things, personal things about Brad and the family, things he couldn't have learned from the media. Convinced, Brad takes Petey home, where Kate and Jason, Brad's wife and son, give him a warm welcome. Brad is overjoyed. He's found long-lost Petey and sees an opportunity to do something constructive about a quarter-century's worth of accumulated guilt—a fantasy short-lived and brutally ended. On a camping trip, Petey pushes Brad off a ridge into a 200-foot-deep chasm and leaves him for dead. Brad manages to survive, then almost wishes he hadn't when he discovers that Petey has kidnapped Kate and Jason. Brad understands that he's being punished, that what he's living through is his brother's long and carefully calculated act of vengeance. A year passes. The FBI and assorted police forces have given up, but Brad can't. Painstakingly, he trains himself to think like Petey, and his hunt eventually bears fruit:Cain and Able one on one yet again. It could be argued that Petey's monstrosity is overdone, but that would be carping. Altogether: good storytelling, neatly plotted and admirably paced, Morrell's best in years.