The premise of the novel sounded really exciting. A guy making a living as a gardner receives a call that his wife had been kidnapped. The ransom is $2m, money which he doesn’t have and doesn’t know how to get. He goes to his family but their ideas of raising their kids to not allow talks of lending money. He goes to his brother – the one that was always there for him – and he said he will help him.
This is where the book gave me a suckerpunch so good I was still riveting from it, 20 pages down the line.
Action packed and so very good, you would not want to put it down.
A man begins dying at the moment of his birth. Most people live in denial of Death’s patient courtship until, late in life and deep in sickness, they become aware of him sitting bedside.
Mitch Rafferty is just a gardener, a simple guy who has never hurt anyone, making a modest living in landscaping. However, someone wants to hurt Mitch. Mitch has just received a phone call telling him that his wife has been kidnapped and he has sixty hours to come up with two million dollars.
To prove it is not a joke the kidnappers shoot a man who is walking his dog across the street. Frightened, Mitch waits impatiently for the police to allow him to go. One of the detectives, Taggart, seems interested in Mitch. However, the police finally allow him to go. After dropping off his employee, Mitch rushes home, afraid of what he will find.
The kidnappers have staged a murder at his house, leaving signs of a bloody struggle. The detective Taggart finds this specific moment to drop by, increasing the reader’s heartrate with fear of discovery. He manages to move him on only to find out later that his (very organized and professional) kidnappers have had the entire house bugged.
Not knowing what to do, he turns towards his family and drives to meet his dad.
The study decor matched the living room, with lighted display shelves that presented a collection of polished stone spheres. Alone on the desk, cupped in an ornamental bronze stand, the newest sphere had a diameter greater than a baseball. Scarlet veins speckled with yellow swirled through a rich coppery brown. To the uninformed it might have appeared to be a piece of exotic granite, ground and polished to bring out its beauty. In fact it was dinosaur dung, which time and pressure had petrified into stone… The colors tended toward browns, golds, and coppers, for the obvious reason; however, every hue, even blue, lustered under the veining was rare.
Rafferty’s parents are an odd breed. Incapable of love, they have raised their children by subjecting them to different educational theories, having their IQ’s tested regularly and even performing horrible psychological experiments – for example trying to eradicate the feeling of shame by having their child subjected to permanent nudity, intimate questions asked throughout the day by the other family members and no privacy – even in the bathroom.
All the Rafferty kids moved as far away as possible from their parents, and some of them proved to be “failures” in their eyes, not having completed their full academic training.
After her sophomore year, Megan had dropped out of college. She lived in Atlanta and operated a thriving dog-grooming business, both a shop and a mobile service. “She called at Easter, asked how many eggs we dyed,” Mitch’s father said. “I assume she thought that was funny. Katherine and I were just relieved that she didn’t announce she was pregnant.” Megan had married Carmine Maffuci, a mason with hands the size of dinner plates. Daniel and Kathy felt that she had settled for a husband beneath her station, intellectually. They expected that she would realize her error and divorce him—if children didn’t arrive first to complicate the situation.
Despite his upbringing, Mitch still loved his mother. He was hoping that either she or his father would be receptive enough to be told about the kidnapping.
A child can love a mother who has no capacity to love him in return, but in time, he realizes that he is pouring his affection not on fertile ground but on rock, where nothing can be grown.
A child might then spend a life defined by settled anger or by self-pity. If the mother is not a monster, if she is instead emotionally disconnected and self-absorbed, and if she is not an active tormentor but a passive observer in the home, her child has a third option. He can choose to grant her mercy without pardon, and find compassion for her in recognition that her stunted emotional development denies her the fullest enjoyment of life.
For all her academic achievements, Kathy was clueless about the needs of children and the bonds of motherhood. She believed in the cause-and-effect principle of human interaction, the need to reward desired behavior, but the rewards were always materialistic.
She believed in the perfectibility of humanity. She felt that children should be raised according to a system from which one did not deviate and with which one could ensure they would be apply them. Because Mitch would not have life without his mother and because her cluelessness did not encompass malice, she inspired a tenderness that was not love or even affection. It was instead a sad regard for her congenital incapacity for sentiment. This tenderness had nearly ripened into the pity that he withheld from his father.
Mitch leaves his parents house and gets another call from the kidnappers. They knew where he was and where he went and they pointed him to his brother’s house where they will talk to him.
Anson, his older brother, was the success story of his parent’s upbringing methods. Expert in digitalization and neuro-linguistics, he worked as a consultant for a Chinese company, making a nice living. Being a bear of a man, Mitch thought that his brother was needed by the kidnappers for his sheer force and intelligence. He was wrong. His brother had $2m stashed away from his work and he told Mitch he would pay for his wife’s release.
“Growing up in Daniel’s rat maze,” Anson said, “the only thing any of us had was one another. The only thing that mattered. That’s still the way it is, fratello piccolo . That’s the way it’s always going to be.”
“I’ll never forget this,” Mitch said.
“Damn right. You owe me forever.”
Mitch laughed again, less shakily. “Free gardening for life.”
“Are you gonna drip snot on the gearshift?”
“No,” Mitch promised.
“Good. I like a clean car.”
At this point I felt happy for Mitch. He was going to get his wife back. His family did suck but not all of them, his brother would pull through. His wife – which he knew now was pregnant, will survive and will be brought back to him by brotherly love.
Oh man, was I mistaken. The next chapters punched me in the gut. Anson was a bad guy! He was dealing with child pornography and different other criminal activities for a mob chief called Julian and he screwed his partners over in the last job they did by $2m. As he didn’t have any wife or children of his own, the only way to make Anson pay back what he owed was to use his own family against him. They used Mitch.
And Anson, he decides to kill his own brother to teach the baddies a lesson. And Holly, Mitch’s wife, finds herself in grave danger as her attackers fall dead at the hands of a deranged psychopath in their group.
I loved Holly. Such a radiant being and her love for her life, for her baby, for her husband are the ones that keep her going through this ordeal.
Always an optimist, having believed since childhood that every life has meaning and that hers will not pass before she finds its purpose, Holly does not dwell on what might go wrong, but envisions herself released, unharmed. She believes envisioning the future helps shape it. Not that she could become a famous actress merely by envisioning herself accepting an Academy Award. Hard work, not wishes, builds careers. Anyway, she doesn’t want to be a famous actress. She would have to spend a lot of time with famous actors, and most of the current crop creep her out.
Free again, she will eat marzipan and chocolate peanut-butter ice cream and potato chips until she either embarrasses herself or makes herself sick. She hasn’t thrown up since childhood, but even vomiting is an affirmation of life.
Free, she will celebrate by going to Baby Style, that store in the mall, and buying the huge stuffed bear she saw in their window when she passed by recently. It was fluffy and white and so cute. Even as a teenage girl, she liked teddy bears. Now she needs one anyway.
Free, she will make love to Mitch. When she is done with him, he’ll feel as if he’s been hit by a train. Well, that isn’t a particularly satisfying romantic image. It’s not the kind of thing that sells millions of Nicholas Sparks novels.
She made love to him with every fiber of her being, body and soul, and when at last their passion passed, he was splattered all over the room as if he had thrown himself in front of a locomotive.
Envisioning herself as a best-selling novelist would be a waste of effort. Fortunately, her goal is to be a real-estate agent. So she prays that her beautiful husband will live through this terror. He is physically beautiful, but the most beautiful thing tendency toward passive acceptance, will get him killed.
He possesses a deep and quiet strength, too, a spine of steel, which is revealed in subtle ways. Without that, he would have been broken by his freak-show parents. Without that, Holly would not have led him on a chase all the way to the altar. So she prays for him to stay strong, to stay alive.
Their love will shine through in the end. And it’s a hell of a ride from start to finish. Mitch finishes off two men, brings down his brother, goes on stealing a car after another just to hit the meeting point with the kidnapper. He knows something is wrong when he tells his wife he loves her on the phone and she does not reply, afraid for her life at the hands of the obsessive killer. But Mitch knows he can trust her.
In a sense, that is what marriage is about—a good marriage—a total trusting with your heart, your mind, your life.
What the book is connected with.
Do you remember The door to December? With the little girl closed off in the sensory deprivation chamber? Yes, this book has it too. The two appalling parents used such a chamber to “train” their kids into obedience. They got killed in it too by their greatest “success”.
The black material that upholstered every surface, densely woven and without sheen, soaked up the beam of the flashlight. Modified sensory deprivation. They had said it was a tool for discipline, not a punishment, a method to focus the mind inward toward self-discovery—a technique, not a torture. Numerous studies had been published about the wonders of one degree or another of sensory deprivation.
Another good connection is based on insanity with all the Dean Koontz books I have read.
Mitch wanted to believe that his brother was insane. If Anson was instead acting with cold-blooded calculation, he was a monster. If you had admired and loved a monster, your gullibility should shame you. Worse, it seemed that by your willingness to be deceived, you empowered the monster. You shared at least some small portion of the responsibility for his crimes. Anson did not lack self-control. He never spoke of conspiracies. He feared nothing. As for masks, he had an aptitude for misdirection, a talent for disguise, a genius for deception. He was not insane.
All in all, a 10/10 thriller.