The Bottom Line: A harrowing rescue thriller with a truly magnetic hero at its core.
In Cam Torrens’ debut novel, nine-year-old Janae is visiting her aunt and uncles’ rural home in the Colorado Rockies when she’s mistaken for a girl named Kendall. She’s abducted, hooded and driven to a secluded barn – a place known as “the stable” – where a man known as Jefe markets children for Dark Web videos. Meanwhile, Kendall – a young girl from Texas who’s been missing for nearly a year – escapes and throws herself at the mercy of local authorities. Unfortunately for investigators, Kendall has no idea where she was being held, making it hard to locate and liberate Jefe’s victims.
Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer Tyler Zahn, still grieving over the loss of a child and his marriage, is reconnecting with estranged 20-year-old daughter Daria. Their plans together are interrupted by a 911 call about a lost hiker. As Tyler becomes increasingly involved in the criminal investigation, he’s also concerned about the people Daria spends time with in his absence. As time goes on, the investigation will become highly personal.
Like his hero, author Cam Torrens is a veteran military pilot as well as a SAR volunteer. Fittingly, Torrens’ portrayal of the psychological toll of being lost or abducted is hard-hitting on every level. Even more compelling is the peek inside SAR culture and the personal sacrifice involved in covering miles of daunting terrain at any time of day or night in search of people at risk.
In this regard, Torrens isn’t afraid to break with traditional genre conventions. Early chapters are spent building Tyler’s world and relationships. Tyler’s backstory is tantalizing, and it’s easy to imagine several action-packed prequels based solely on snippets of dialogue (“He and his deputy sheriff friend had stopped those guys from blowing up the dam on Dillon Reservoir”). This investment in character development pays out in multiple ways as the plot develops, rendering Tyler Zahn a protagonist readers will want to spend time with in subsequent series books.