One of the things that I've really come to expect from author Neil Cross is not quite knowing what to expect when you pick up one of this books. CAPTURED is the latest in a set of standalone novels that have just all been fantastic, and I'm happy to report that CAPTURED keeps up the standard.
When Kenny finds out he has a matter of weeks to live he draws up the sort of list that I guess many of us might draw up. People that he wants to clear the air with. He starts out tracking down the man who, as a little boy had been nearly abducted. Kenny had seen the suspect trailing the boy, and yet, when the police questioned him, he wasn't able to provide much detail. Kenny wants to apologise. He wants to make things right with his ex-wife, and still closest friend, but somehow he can't quite get to her name just yet. So he tries to track down his old school-yard friend. Callie had been kind to Kenny when he was a loner, awkward, a kid that didn't quite fit in. Callie, unfortunately, isn't easy to find, in fact she has disappeared in unexpected circumstances. Kenny wants to to make things right, and yet, despite his best intentions it ends up not right. About as far from right as you can possibly get.
CAPTURED is just one of the most fascinating novels I've read in a long time. Kenny is a character that will endear you to him, freak you out completely, but in the end, you just can't help but feel so desperately for a man for whom the best of intentions somehow manage to go so incredibly wrong. His complete inability to pull back from the abyss is intriguing. Is it human nature or is it something to do with the ticking time bomb in his brain? Tightly told, quick moving and tense, at no stage does CAPTURED read like a script despite Cross having credentials as a screenwriter. It's also not just a story about Kenny. There are other characters in this book who stand out from the page - the people who help Kenny and support him, and those who come up against him.
If there is anything at all that links Cross's recent books (NATURAL HISTORY / BURIAL and now CAPTURED) it is possibly the theme of the ordinary, flawed human being, pushed way outside their comfort zone. Add to that a talent for creating bleak and vaguely threatening settings; crisp, spare yet beautifully flowing prose and characterisations that tear at the heartstrings even when they are doing the unforgivable and it just has to be said. Do yourselves a favour. CAPTURED is a one sitting, absolutely tremendous, extremely disturbing book that you'll not forget in a hurry.