Four year old Mike is dumped by his father at a foster home, with no real memories of who he is or where he came from. For years, he sits and waits for him to return. He grows into trouble as he matures, minor law breaking that will inevitably lead to major crimes and trouble for life.
He's given a chance to redeem himself and grabs it, eventually becoming a successful housing contractor. He's married and has a precocious (Aren’t they always?) eight year old daughter.
But the past is coming to claim him...
The book starts with the mystery of who Mike is and where he came from and builds in pace from there. The pacing doesn't stop to take a breath until three-quarters of the way through, and by then, you have to finish it. I read this in thirty minute bursts at lunchtime and regretted leaving it every time. Mike is always on the move.
What worked really well was the easy way the villains are able to manipulate him. They know exactly which buttons to press to get him moving without thinking, and the logic is so scarily perfect that we would all act the same way. See one of the villains standing over your daughter? Race to her side...only to find it’s a distraction for something far more sinister.
For all his teenage life of crime and knowledge, Mike is three steps behind the villains most of the way through the book. That's what makes it work so effectively: If a man with the street-smarts of Mike is losing, how would the rest of us manage?
The short sentences tumble together and roll into a stream-of-consciousness style, picking the pace up even further, like Dean Koontz without the endless weather descriptions. It's only when The Big Reveal happens that it slows down.
I won't give away The Big Reveal, but it was unexpected...and...pedestrian. It's not above believability that someone would kill Mike for it. It's just mundane. People have killed for less, but from the unstoppable determination of the villains, somehow you expect something grander.
The pace does slow with The Reveal, but it didn't bounce me out of the story at all. I wanted to see Mike in full Papa-Bear mode, and I wasn't disappointed.