I picked this book up from the recommended Audiobooks Crime/Thriller section and I must say I absolutely loved it! The voice actor (George Newbern) really gives Judge Sampson a personality and is perfect for the women voices too!

The story is brilliantly done, with multiple possible suspects and a few cases which only show how important the decisions of a court judge can affect other’s lives.

The Story

Judge Scott Sampson doesn’t brag about having a perfect life, but the evidence is clear: a prestigious job. A beloved family. On an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, he is about to pick up his six-year-old twins to go swimming when his wife, Alison, texts him that she’ll get the kids from school instead.

It’s not until she gets home later that Scott realizes she doesn’t have the children. And she never sent the text. Then the phone rings, and every parent’s most chilling nightmare begins. A man has stolen Sam and Emma. A man who warns the judge to do exactly as he is told in a drug case he is about to rule on. If the judge fails to follow his instructions, the consequences for the children will be dire.

For Scott and Alison, the kidnapper’s call is only the beginning of a twisting, gut-churning ordeal of blackmail, deceit, and terror; a high-profile trial like none the judge or his wife has ever experienced. Their marriage falters. Suspicions and long-buried jealousies rise to the surface. Fractures appear. Lies are told.

Through it all, Scott and Alison will stop at nothing to get their children back, no matter the cost to themselves or to each other.

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What I liked

The characters are well rounded – each have their own strengths and flaws and while we hear the narration from the point of view of the judge, we get to see his world through his eyes and feel his doubts and frustrations and the heartbreak that comes from suspecting the mother of your children from being involved in the kidnapping.
Alison, she has a strong game too and manages to impress by taking action in a situation where most people would have felt helpless.

The court proceedings are explained in detail as well as the thought process behind each ruling as well as the role of Judge supervision when it comes to making doubtful choices for winners.

In parallel, we get to meet Judge Sampson at home – a father that cares for his children, that has silly hat dance evenings and makes pancakes on Saturdays. We meet Alison’s tightly knit family, her sisters and their husbands. We see how powerful a good social support network is in case of an emergency. And we get to hope and doubt with each new development.

The baddies are truly despicable. They’re two brothers of foreign descent with strong accents who are believed to be Turkish at first but turn out to be wanted criminals from the Interpol. They kidnapped the children and then nearly killed one of them by giving her peanut butter and jelly (the girl was allergic). They start going to more extreme measures as time passes by either turning the girl bald and extinguishing a cigar on her arms. Poor kid!

The writing is excellent and I can’t wait to put my hands on another one of Brad Park’s books!

“Security was a myth, a grand lie we told ourselves to mask the jarring reality of the human condition: that the social contract was written in sand, not stone, and it could be blown away at any time, by anyone with sufficient breath his lungs.”

What I didn’t like

He should have gone immediately (or have sent his wife) to the FBI and told his boss (the circuit judge) what was going on. I know his kid’s life was at stake but imagine if, as a test, they would have asked him to release back into the wild not a convicted drug dealer but a serial rapist and child molester. FBI would have helped “fake” the rulings and trace the phones properly and even trace the calls they kept receiving.

Otherwise the book is a solid 5/5 and a good-paced thriller where no-one can be trusted.

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