In her debut novel, Haylen Beck takes the reader on a parent's nightmare worst fears.
Audra Kinney is fleeing an abusive marriage with her two children and she thought that they would be safe, she just needs to get to California. On a pit stop she spots a police officer and Audra is wary as her husband has quite a bit of influence, and she had a right to be wary. Sheriff Whiteside sees an opportunity in Audra and her children and when he pulls her over and finds a bog of marijuana in her vehicle he arrests her for possession. Audra know it is not hers, she does not know where it came from but when she asks about her children and the response is "What Children?" her worst nightmare has just begun. Across the county a man watches the news about Audra's case and it all sounds way too familiar to him and he see an opportunity to find out what really happened to his family, but the answers they find are even more than anyone can imagine.
This book is very very unsettling and extremely terrifying and traumatizing as a parent. From the very first scene Back is able to grab hold of the reader and keep that hold until the end. This book is really well paced and I liked that Beck took the time to have several points of view as this was needed as we know who the bad guys are so there is no mystery there, it was more about what will happen to Audra and her children. I find that this created a more well rounded story and plot as a whole. There are also shifts in time in this book as we learn where Audra came from and why she was running away from her husband.
I think one of the most interesting characters within the book was Sheriff Whiteside, and how he ended up on the other side of the law. He is probably one of the most evil men that I have read about in a long time and he is basically the perfect antagonist in this book and the lengths he is willing to go to protect himself were great. Also as the Sheriff this gave him additional powers that he has no qualms about using. However, while Sheriff Whiteside is an interesting character, the rest of the cast was not so interesting, they acted fairly predictable in my opinion and I think that Beck missed an opportunity with Danny Lee
I wish Beck would have had more with Danny Lee at the end of the book as his part and what occurs seems to end suddenly so this does make me wonder if maybe there will be a second book featuring him with his own personal quest. I also felt that Danny Lee was not developed as much of a character as he could have been.
This was a good debut novel and the farther you read in to this book the more invested you become in Audra and her children. I look forward to seeing what Beck comes up with next, a new author to keep an eye on for sure.