Johnny is sure that his twin sister, Alyssa is still alive. Missing for almost a year now, he still continues to search for her even as his world has crumbled around him. First his father disappeared and Katherine Merrimon, Johnny’s mother, still reeling from the loss of her daughter could not handle this further loss and took to her bed and became a shadow of herself. Their landlord, a brute of a man, named Ken Holloway, soon introduced his mother to drugs and often took advantage of her and beat her. When Johnny wasn’t in school, which wasn’t very often given the urgency of finding Alyssa, he was often engaged in guerrilla warfare against Ken to try and protect his mom. Now, whenever Ken came over and was locked in his mom’s bedroom, Johnny would race down the road to Ken’s house, throw rocks at his windows to trigger the burglar alarm which caused Ken to leave in order to deal with the alarm and the police who always responded. It was a clever tactic, but Ken was now on to him and had even threatened him a time or two.
Johnny’s friend Jack, sometimes skipped school to help Johnny with his search. But mostly Johnny was on his own and used the map he had gotten from the county office of Tax Assessment and going to each house in his hometown by bicycle, trying to see if someone could be holding Alyssa on their property. He hadn’t found Alyssa yet but he had uncovered some shady people who were on the sex offenders list that seemed quite suspicious.
But Johnny is not the only one who is trying to find Alyssa. Detective Hunt has been looking for her too. In fact he has become so obsessed with this case that his marriage fell apart and even his boss thinks he may have lost his ability to be objective and do his job as a cop. Hunt knows that Johnny is up to something. He has tried to protect him and keep Social Services from picking him up, but if Johnny keeps missing school it may be impossible to save him.
And then another girl goes missing and suddenly Hunt and Johnny are galvanized into finding this girl, hoping that she might lead them to Alyssa as well.
Winner of the 2010 Edgar Award for best novel and deservedly so, Hart is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Although nominally a detective story, it is the people in this book and the way Hart gives life to them that drives the story rather than the plot. Johnny’s voice is that of a thirteen year old boy who has been forced to become his mother’s protector and responsible for finding his lost sister. The nuance of that forced maturity and responsibility overlaid on the thoughts and actions of a boy who is still a child is done deftly and skillfully. The plot line is complicated and filled with twists and turns but Hart never lets that overshadow the characters who are the main focus. As he reveals their complicated motivations and failings we begin to see the tortured landscape between innocence and harsh reality and the differences between hopelessness and faith.
Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to: Marian, Sharon, Ken Keith and Lauren
Book Study Worthy? Yes
Read in ebook format.