cover image Do Not Become Alarmed

Do Not Become Alarmed

Maile Meloy. Riverhead, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1652-5

A tropical vacation goes awry in Meloy’s (Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It) ominous, addictive novel. When hardworking, ultraprivileged cousins Liv and Nora decide to whisk their families away on a whirlwind two-week luxury cruise down the coast of Mexico and Central America after Nora’s mother dies, it seems like a win-win situation. Soothing sunshine; a friendly, attractive Argentinian couple with children around the same age as Nora’s and Liv’s; endless readymade shrimp cocktail. But when the groups separate for off-the-ship outings—the men for an impromptu golf excursion and the women and six kids for a zip line tour led by a local guide—and the children suddenly disappear, a stress-free trip away turns into an unexpected nightmare. The parents turn into helpless basket cases, while the kids—as they stumble onto a freshly dug grave, get kidnapped by a pair of drug-dealing brothers, hold on for dear life during a high-speed car chase, and get separated while on a freight train headed toward Nicaragua—grow ever more fearful when faced with life-threatening danger. In crafting this high-stakes page-turner, Meloy excels as a master of suspense. Though some of the circumstances seem piled on for the sake of melodrama and the adults’ shoddy attempts to cope veer into soap opera territory, the story is nonetheless engrossing for all its nerve-racking twists and turns. (June)