cover image Hocus


Jan Burke / Author Simon & Schuster $22 (352p) ISBN 978-0-684-

In Sweet Dreams, Irene (1994), Southern California newspaper reporter Irene Kelly was abducted while pursuing a story. Burke again examines the pain suffered by kidnapping victims as Irene's police detective husband, Frank Harriman, is taken by Hocus, a terrorist group. The ""takers,"" as hostage negotiator Thomas Cassidy calls them, are Bret Neukirk and Samuel Ryan. Twelve years earlier, when they were 10, they were kidnapped with--and witnessed the murders of--their fathers. Frank was the policeman who rescued and befriended them in the aftermath, when the boys suffered elective mutism--refusal to talk except to each other. They never revealed that a tall, white-haired cop assisted their kidnapper, Chris Powell, who was murdered shortly afterwards. Now Bret and Sam seek well-planned revenge by keeping Frank sedated on morphine until Irene goes to Bakersfield, where their fathers were killed, and discovers Powell's accomplice. Her investigation leads to three close friends of Frank's late father, who was also a policeman. Switching between past and present, Burke writes a well-paced mystery with a heartrending climax, but her strength is the sympathy and depth with which she describes how the trauma of abduction haunts the victims. Author tour. (May)