Friday, September 13, 2013

Critical Pursuit, by Janice Cantore

Officer Brinna Caruso is a woman on a mission: rescue missing children at any cost, personal or otherwise. Driven by her own experience as a child, Brinna does whatever it takes to find missing children with the help of her rescue dog, Hero. But this time, it hits closer to home than expected when a predator appears with the same MO as the one who abducted Brinna when she was a child. Brinna has to rely on her instincts and learn to trust her new partner, detective Jack O’Reilly, who’s struggling with feelings of revenge, anger and frustration after his wife was killed by a drunk driver. Jack seems to have a death wish at every turn, putting his life at risk and the life of others in danger. But with a kidnapper on the loose threatening to do more harm Jack knows he has to be someone Brinna can rely on. Together they will learn to trust each other and do whatever it takes to catch the kidnapper and put Brinna’s past to rest once and for all.

Although I knew that the story was about a kidnapper and the police officer trying to catch him, I was completely caught off guard by how heavy the issues were, how hard it was to read, not because it was badly written, but because it is so well written that it does not need to go into details to stir up your emotions. It strikes a chord… hard. And this is just in the beginning. As the story progresses, it’s difficult not to care, not to get desperate and start yelling, “Get him! Get him!” Almost like watching a movie.

The characters, especially Brinna, are developed nicely, with enough backstory to understand where they are coming from. In Brinna’s case, I would have liked to have a little more information about her father, but nevertheless she is a great character; very believable. She has faced a terrible situation as a child that has mold her into who she is now. Her situation is complex and hard and her reaction to it is what you would expect, very normal, which gives her character credibility and depth. Jack, on the other hand, is difficult to like and hard to identify with. Having lost his wife, he is understandably shaken and angry. But the way he dwells on his anger is a little too much. I cannot sympathize with him as I wanted to because his reaction towards everything frustrated me, even more so when he has a Christian background. I understand that losing a loved one in a senseless tragedy must be horrible, but Jack’s character comes across as little bit irrational at times. As much as I wanted to like him and feel empathy, I ended up not caring too much for him until a little before the end.

I really liked, though, the way the relationship between the main characters is developed, how it changes and grows throughout the story and as a result of it. It is not a romantic relationship, which surprised me in a good way because the book does a few twists and turns that are not expected in a fictional story. Of course, there’s more to this story since this is the first book in a series, but it is refreshing to have a story end with no romance in sight and still feel that you have closure, that there are no loose ends.

But the relationship between Brinna and Jack is one of a few relationships explored in 'Critical Pursuit'. As hard as it is to say and to read about, the relationship in the kidnapper’s mind between him and his victims is also examined and it is gut-wrenchingly twisted and sick, which speaks volumes of what a talented writer Mrs. Cantore is. Also explored is the relationship between us and God, its reciprocity, how sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. However, it was Brinna’s relationship with her mentor, the man who saved her when she was abducted as a child, that affected me most; how much she depended on him, how much she needed him, clinging to him as if she was still a little lost child, as the father figure she so desired. It’s in that relationship that becomes very clear how much Brinna needs God, his strength and faithfulness, even if she doesn’t realize it.

The author also does a very nice job of introducing police work without overwhelming the reader with police jargon. As a well written police drama, there are no details of police work or codes. The story flows from one action to the next giving the information needed to understand the situation at hand without having to explain excessively the intricacies of the work of the officers and detectives.

But as well written as the book is, the author does seem to forget dialogues between some of the characters. For instance, a conversation between Brinna and her friend Tony Di Santo where they talk about a situation they’ve discussed before as if they haven’t seen or talk to each other about it. Also, the resolution of the story’s central theme seemed anticlimactic, not at all what I expected having had so much anticipation built up until that moment.

Heavy issues, both spiritual and human, written with sensibility make for a very touching drama and a very hard to put down suspense.

3.5 out of 5 stars

*I received a copy of this book from the publishers through The Christian Manifesto in exchange of an honest review.

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