cover image The Cruelty

The Cruelty

Scott Bergstrom. Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-10818-0

Liam Neeson’s 2008 film Taken concerned a spy who engages in mass mayhem while attempting to recover his kidnapped daughter. Bergstrom reverses this plot in his violent, well-crafted first novel. Seventeen-year-old gymnast Gwendolyn Bloom doesn’t learn that her father is a genuine spy—and not merely an overworked State Department employee—until after he is kidnapped by international gangsters, and the CIA makes little attempt to recover him. Vowing to find her father, Gwen heads for Europe, where she is intercepted by a tough Israeli agent who trains her in Krav Maga and spycraft. The seedy, back-alley Europe that Gwen moves through comes alive as she traces her father to Prague and gains employment with his murderous captors. It’s a premise that demands a degree of suspended disbelief, but Bergstrom manages Gwen’s transformation from high school student to assassin believably enough, and he doesn’t avoid the toll Gwen’s actions take on her. Not for the weak of heart, this is a grim, fast-paced tale that stands knee-deep in dead bodies. Ages 17–up. Agent: Tracey Adams, Adams Literary. (Feb.)