"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Sunday, January 23, 2011

And Then There Was One by Patricia Gussin

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Summary: Two of three nine-year-old triplets are kidnapped from a Detroit suburb.

Don't get me wrong - I love fantasy fiction, but this book was pure fiction. The plot was unoriginal with details that were cliqued and I felt like the author was trying to capitalize on a parent's worst fear, even though it's so unrealistic.

Scott and Karen Monroe are an interracial couple and parents of beautiful nine-year-old triplets: Jackie, Sammie, and Alex.
They lived in Davis Island in Tampa and, to their eternally incredulous delight, were parents of nine year old triplets. Even more incredulous, the triplets were identical. Identical triplets, conceived without the aid of fertility treatments; the chances of that, an astounding one in two hundred million pregnancies.
This unbelievable premise starts on page 17 and the rest of the book is even more implausible. When two of the girls want to see a different movie from their third sister and their older cousin, they split up. When the movie is over, the girls are nowhere to be found. After notifying mall security, it becomes obvious that the girls have been kidnapped. The likelihood of this is so rare, but the author tries to make it seem like IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU! If you've read any of Lenore Skenazy's columns, the actual stranger abduction rate is extremely low.

In addition to the rare kidnapping scenario, the woman who kidnaps them, Marge Spansky, has a freak tragedy of her own. In her second marriage, she and her second husband had two beautiful twin girls, Jennie and Jessie. Then during a family day at the lake, the girls' stroller is pushed into the water by her seven-year-old son Spanky. The girls were eight months old. But Spanky was seven and police were sure it was an accident.
Truly, Marge tried her best to raise her troubled son, now a two-hundred-forty-pound hulk of a man with a protruding beer belly, a shaved head, and a mean temperament, but underneath she knew that Spanky's shortcomings were all her fault. She should have known something was not right with Spanky when he started torturing those frogs at the lake and chopping heads off turtles.
But in the privacy of her heart, Marge had to admit her horrible, secret suspicions. Over the years, child molestation cases had been reported in Oakland County, all involving little girls. Marge was pretty sure that nobody else connected her son with these sordid reports, but she knew about the little panties he kept hidden in the small chest under his bed. The chest he took with him on the road. Whenever there'd been a report, she knew that Spanky had been in the vicinity. The last time she secretly checked his box, panties stained with something brownish on a Mickey Mouse pattern had been added.
Marge used the oldest trick in the book to kidnap the girls. She overheard their conversation and went in to the movie to get the girls, telling them that their other sister Jackie had been hurt. The girls willingly get in the car, believing that Marge, a perfect stranger, is taking them to the hospital. After a while, it dawns on them that they are being kidnapped, but by then it's too late.

Meanwhile, Jackie collapses in a coma under both survivor's guilt and stress, while Scott and Karen and the FBI use all their resources to find the girls, including offering a $100,000 reward. That's when the kooks come out.

Marge brings Alex and Sammie back to her house. The girls are valiantly resisting, shouting, banging on pipes, refusing to eat, until Marge hits them and shoves them in the basement. Marge starts calling the girls Jennie and Jessie, after her long-dead daughters. Spanky comes home and realizes that his mother is the one who has taken the two missing triplets. Marge thinks she has her daughters back but Spanky immediately realizes that his mother has given him the gift of two little girls to molest. When Marge tries to prevent such an incident, Sammie escapes and runs into the woods. After a terrifying search, Spanky gives up and decides to run away with his mother and the last remaining girl, whom he has nicknamed Precious, and whom Marge has named Jennie, but who is actually named Alex.

As we come to find out, Alex is actually the compliant, obedient one, a ideal molestation and brainwashing victim. Sammie, the defiant one, is the one who ran away. She is found later by FBI agents doing a canvas of the neighborhood after a neighbor reported an older woman buying twin beds at a garage sale. But hidden in isolation along the Great Lakes, Alex is actually molested by Spanky and Marge walks in on the situation. Thankfully, Marge realizes that in order to keep her Jennie (Alex) safe, she and Jennie (Alex) must run away from Spanky. FBI agents are looking for Alex, Spanky is looking for Alex and Marge, who are hiding from everyone.

Through a combination of aggressive investigation, helpful witnesses, and sheer luck, the FBI rescues Alex and reunites her safely with her family. I expected the reunion to be tearful and touching but I wasn't impressed at all.

Everything about this book seemed excessive and calculated to strike fear in readers. The writing style wasn't terrible, but wasn't great. Harlan Coben's Caught is a far more realistic and terrifying book.

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