by Paul Chandler
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Action
Print Length: 264 pages
Reviewed by Warren Maxwell
A private detective with elite military training teams up with cutting edge AI technology to solve a decades-old kidnapping.
Riley Callen is no ordinary detective. Young, athletic, and trained in top secret combat techniques by her Marine Colonel father, she is far more formidable than others might expect. After rescuing the daughter of a powerful business magnate, Callen finds herself flooded with publicity and appreciation, the new expert in missing persons.
Behind her stunning success is a powerful new artificial intelligence system nicknamed Molly. Relying on this technology and her battle-hardened intuition, Callen embarks on her most difficult case yet: a decades old multi-kidnapping cold case that implicates priests, marines, and a violent paramilitary task force.
When the three Loden children were lost in a burning house on December 23, 1994, their parents assumed they had died. Further investigation provided a tragic twist—they were not in the house when it burned down, they were missing, but the police failed to find any evidence of where they went and the case was forgotten. In a desperate last measure, Vera Loden puts all her hope in Callen’s hands.
“All she could see in the narrow beam of her flashlight was rot and ruin. Where in this whole abandoned mess could you stage a hostage?”
Propelled by vivid scenes of action and Callen’s clinical analysis of her investigation and the various suspects she encounters, this books provides a classic boost of adrenaline along with insightful descriptions of criminality and grief. Callen is not a broken, complex hero in the vein of other famous PIs. She is a model of discipline, efficiency, and careful planning. Indeed, the book’s modern twist, providing a computer system for a partner, complements Callen’s unforgivingly direct approach to solving crime quite well. Something is lost in the absence of inner turmoil and struggle in this novel’s protagonist, but the strength and discerning mind of this female detective makes for an engaging character, reminiscent of a more reliable, less peculiar Sherlock Holmes.
“A lie. Riley had no doubt. Whitmer had maintained eye contact during their entire conversation, but he looked away when he told her he hadn’t spoken to Asher since shortly after the priest had left St. Mathews.”
In keeping with its character portraits, the novel is written in clear, direct language. This style is ideally suited to the extended action scenes that range from full marine force battles to surveillance missions and hand to hand fights. On the other hand, this choppiness detracts from casual dialogue and character development. Conversations and literary observations can lack a sense of authenticity and slip into occasional cliches. Still, mystery and high-energy animate this story and drive it forward. The novel is aided greatly by its heart-thumping pace and the entertaining relationship between Callen and her technological sidekick Molly.
In the end, Loden’s Children is a satisfying thriller following a strong female detective unraveling the twisted truth behind an unsolved Christmas Eve kidnapping.
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