“AMBER ALERT,” BY DAN LAWTON
SOLSTICE PUBLISHING; NOVEMBER 9, 2016
Synopsis: Time is running out.
Nine-year-old Chloe Janis is abducted.
Abby, her mom, is now faced with revealing her dark past, hidden these last seventeen years, or losing her daughter forever. A cryptic message from a man she’d shoved into the dark recesses of her mind forces her into an impossible situation—revealing secrets best kept hidden or losing her daughter forever.
Secrets, deception, and betrayal surround the small town of Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. All eyes are on the community, threatening to split open as yet unhealed wounds are probed. Fates will be rewritten and careers redefined. Everyone involved will confront their pasts if there’s any hope of Mifflinburg becoming a town at the heart of redemption and forgiveness.
“Amber Alert” is a fabulous new mystery/suspense/thriller by author Dan Lawton about a parents’ worst fear – their child being kidnapped. Abby Janis, her husband Kurt and their 9-year-old daughter Chloe live a seemingly perfect life. Amber and Kurt pride themselves on the fact their marriage has only strengthened over the years and the love and passion between them grows deeper every day, unlike other 10-year marriages. Kurt is a successful banker and Abby is a happy stay-at-home mom who’s favorite part of the day is her daughter and husband getting home from school or work. Sounds perfect, right? One day as Abby checks the mailbox, she is being watched without realizing it. Flipping through the mail she discovers an envelope without postage or a return address, simply saying “Abby” on the outside. Once she opens it, she immediately knows who the sender is and that her perfect life. as she knows it, may be coming to an end. Within hours of opening the letter, Chloe is kidnapped, and the frantic investigation begins.
I loved so much about this novel, but I especially loved Detective Hank Berger, who, along with his partner, Melanie Chase, were assigned to Chloe’s case. Hank is months away from retirement and his young partner happens to also be in a relationship with his daughter Bree, from whom he’s been estranged for years. Abby seems like the perfect wife and mother for about a minute into the novel, but then she appears shady and questionable until the end. She is honestly the only character I disliked, which may sound weird as this novel is about kidnapping. But her quest to reinvent herself and create a life that was a lie resulted in complete chaos, trauma and pain. Kurt is overall, the ideal husband and father, although he does have a secret from Abby about a potential career in politics. I felt so badly for Kurt because he was the one with Chloe when she was taken, in a situation many of us have found ourselves in before. They are in a small pet store, arguing over why Chloe cannot have a puppy when an old friend recognizes him and calls him over. Kurt steps right outside of the store and within a minute or two, Chloe is gone. I can’t help thinking that if Abby would have immediately told him about the letter and what it meant, Kurt would have never left Chloe’s side for a second and maybe not even gone to the mall in the first place. Kurt also may possibly be the most understanding and forgiving human ever depicted in any novel written.
Scott Baker is the “strange man” from the past, who basically appears creepy until much later when the reader learns the truth about Scott’s past with Abby. For the majority of the novel I just considered him a weird, stalker, ex-con, creepy sort of person. Not that there is any excuse for kidnapping a child, I found my opinion of him changing as everything was revealed. Scott’s ailing mother is also in the equation, as is an old neighbor named Jordan. The narrative about Jordan is odd from the beginning, at least I thought. The author provides all of these details about Jordan and this amazing girlfriend, Mindy. Jordan was imprisoned on drug charges and his been trying to live a law-abiding and clean life since being paroled. Mindy really has no relevance to the story but there’s a bunch of stuff about how much he loves her, wants to marry her and so on.
There are several subplots to this novel other than the kidnapping itself. Abby is keeping a million secrets from Kurt, Kurt is in tight with the mayor and together they go against Berger and the investigation, Jordan spends a good amount of the novel trying to figure out why Chloe’s picture in the paper looks so familiar, the Mayor is threatening Berger… It goes on and on but it’s all fantastic. This novel had me from the first page and I loved every page there on after. Lawton’s arrangement and development of the plot and storyline slowly revealed missing pieces to the puzzle throughout the story, giving enough hints to keep the reader satisfied and interested, but holding back enough to provide wonderful suspense – which lasted until the last sentence of the novel. So this isn’t a novel that will drive you insane trying to figure out “whodunnit,” but it also keeps surprising you the entire time.
Dan Lawton has blown me away with his masterful storytelling and suspense in “Amber Alert” and I hope to read more of his novels in the future. I completely, 100% recommend this novel to any lovers of mystery/suspense/thrillers.
Learn more about Dan Lawton by visiting his web page.
* Many thanks to the author for providing me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!