TERMINAL ISLAND: A Jack Liffey Mystery

John Shannon, Author . Carroll & Graf/Penzler $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7867-1337-0

In this morally complex and absorbing novel, Jack Liffey, who specializes in finding lost children, is recovering from injuries sustained on his last case (2003's City of Strangers ). Now his doctor, his daughter and his lady friend are all insisting he stop working for a while. But he's unable to resist a call for help from a childhood friend whose teenage son is kidnapped. It's only the first in a string of bizarre crimes, each punctuated with a Japanese playing card and a cryptic message. In a setup vaguely reminiscent of Mystic River , the police lieutenant heading the investigation is a third childhood friend, now fighting his own demons, and the locus of the crimes is the working-class town where they all grew up and where a thriving Japanese community was obliterated by WWII internment camps. The book's emotional power comes from Shannon's beautifully developed theme of intergenerational family relationships. The perpetrator's diary, paralleling the investigation, shows true filial love and honor but also the twisted sort of vengeance that begets madness. Liffey himself is caught between protecting the bigoted father he despises and the wise, compassionate 16-year-old daughter he adores, and he's conflicted about the growing relationship between them. The story climaxes with a highly original escape scene and an upside-down ending that simultaneously surprises and feels just right. Agent, Amy Rennert. (June 1)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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