SPLINTER - Michael MacConnell
One of the best things about a good thriller is when they present a scenario that could just possibly happen. The reader of SPLINTER has no trouble at all believing in the possibility of the kidnapping of the child of Hollywood celebrities; they can join in the initial rush of sympathy for parents who have been put in an impossible situation, and as the fictional public sympathy starts to splinter into suspicion, the reader will be there along for the ride.
The problem with this kidnapping is that Milo is found dead within his parents own home - in the basement, suffocated. There are so many complicating factors in the early stage of this investigation - the local police have really bungled the crime scene; the child is discovered by his own father which helps to confuse and obfuscate reactions; but the biggest problem is that Sarah, once called in as head of the FBI investigation team, really suspects that the parents are hiding something. There's also the classic problem of the closed room scenario. The basement that Milo was found in is within his parents home, within a secure compound. The family have their own security personnel - so how on earth could somebody have got into the place? When Sarah finds that a former bodyguard has gone missing, and she and her team get a chance to review the crime scene themselves, slowly the case starts to crack open.
Slowly doesn't mean to imply that there's anything slow in the action of this book. There are a lot of red herrings, and a lot happening. The plot in SPLINTER is nicely complicated, with that encouraging touch of reality to just make it all the more hair-raising and therefore involving. There's even a bit of budding romance, designed more to complicate things than create any sort of rosy happy ending. There are some backward references to the first Sarah Reilly book - Maelstrom - but not enough to put off a new reader though. As in the tradition of all good thrillers, there's a high energy finale with a bit of jeopardy and some professional and personal resolution.
There were a number of things to really like about SPLINTER. The reality of the proposed scenario made the threat seem extremely pointed and believable. The matter-of-fact way in which Sarah acted and reacted was engaging, she was possessed but not arrogant, questioning but not whinging, and in this book in particular, she simply was who she was and she (and the reader) got on with it. The ending was a good rollercoaster of the good versus the bad and the what not being exactly who you thought it was. There's a big setup for the villain of the next book at the end as well, and that's hinting at something that could get very very interesting. I'm looking forward to some serious fireworks when Sarah goes up against the Puppeteer.
Special Agent Sarah Reilly has just been decorated for bringing down one of America's worst serial killers. Refusing extended leave, she goes straight back to work in the Boston field office. But the murder of a child, Milo Kane, sees her transferred to LA to head up the FBI's investigating task force.
Within weeks, public sympathy for Milo's parents splinters into suspicion, and the LA District Attorney rides the wave against them. Sarah suspects that the parents are withholding something and when she discovers their former bodyguard is missing, she inches closer to finding answers.