THE NIGHT MONSTER by James Swain
“Using a black Magic Marker, I wrote down the date of each woman’s abduction, and beneath that, the things that linked them – – age, athleticism, and the fact that they were all nursing students.”
Review by Bonnie Brody (MAY 25, 2010)
Before getting kicked off the police force, Private eye Jack Carpenter served for sixteen years as head of the missing persons department for the Broward County Police Force in Florida. Kicked off the force for being too rough with witnesses, Jack still works with the missing persons department as a consultant. His specialty is finding missing children. He and his Australian Shepherd, Buster, form a team and they have a special sense for locating the missing. Jack is especially good at finding damaged children such as those who have autism, have been abused, or are handicapped in some way.
Eighteen years ago, while he was head of missing persons, he witnessed the abduction of college student Naomi Dunn but was unable to stop it. It has haunted him all this time. Just recently, he received a phone call from his daughter Jesse, a college basketball player. Jesse tells him that a creepy guy has been stalking their team, videotaping them and making them feel uncomfortable. Jack checks this out and finds a small, smelly guy named Mouse wearing a fake reporter’s badge videotaping Jesse’s team. Shortly afterwards, one of their star players, Sarah Long, is abducted by a six foot ten inch “monster.” Jack tries to stop the abduction but is no competition for this huge man who has flung Sarah over his shoulder. Jack’s worst nightmare has been replayed and he is determined to get to the bottom of this. Jack’s search for the abductors and the reasons behind the abductions form the basis of The Night Monster’s plot.
Jack lives alone in a single room over a bar. He is separated from his wife, has no money, and his home is in foreclosure. As Jack investigates the abductions, working in tandem with the police force and the FBI, he puts together some interesting clues. Both girls were nursing students and each was tall and very athletic. The same “giant” took both of them and disappeared, seemingly into nowhere. Linderman is the FBI agent that Jack works with and Linderman’s own daughter was abducted five years previously. This case is very personal for him.
Jack gathers evidence from casino tapes where Mouse and the giant have been stalking another woman and develops a dossier showing that five women have been abducted in the same manner over a period of years. All of the woman were nursing students and athletes, and they were abducted from their own apartments. Over time, Jack comes to realize that the police force is on the wrong track and he goes off on his own maverick scent.
Sarah Long’s father is one of the wealthiest land developers in Florida and he hires Jack to find his daughter. This puts a large amount of money into Jack’s pocket and also puts a helicopter and additional security cops at his disposal. Along with Sarah’s father, he begins a long and desperate search that takes him throughout Florida.
His search leads him to an abandoned psychiatric facility for the criminally insane called Daybreak. Daybreak was closed several years ago and the patients placed in other facilities. There were problems with the management of Daybreak and the patients were mistreated. Jack finds out that the giant and Mouse were both patients there and that they escaped the facility nineteen years ago. Lonnie is the giant’s name and he was sent to Daybreak when he was a child. Not only was he a giant but he was “retarded.” When Lonnie was thirteen years old, “he came upstairs when his mother and sisters were eating dinner. Had a sledgehammer in his hand. He bludgeoned his mother and one of his sisters to death.” Mouse is described as “crazy like a fox” but not actually criminally insane.
As Jack follows the trail from Daybreak to the present, he ends up in the town of Chatham, Florida where he believes Lonnie and Mouse are hiding. Chatham is surreal. As Jack sits in a restaurant having dinner, he looks outside. “The sidewalk outside The Sweet Lowdown was filled with people out for an evening stroll. Over a third of them were missing an arm, a leg, or a hand, with some even missing two limbs. They all seemed to know each other, and had stopped to chat or have a smoke. It was a parade of the maimed.” How is Chatham linked to Lonnie and Mouse? Do the people there know that kidnappers are living among them? Why are there so many maimed people?
While the procedural aspects of this book are interesting, the characters are never well-developed. They are mostly outlines without any depth. Some of the plot seems a bit silly but the book traverses a lot of interesting ground as well. Will Jack find the abductors and be able to save any of the women? This aspect of the book holds the reader’s interest and keeps an exciting pace. James Swain writes an interesting mystery and keeps readers guessing until the end making it a perfect vacation read.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 74 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Ballantine Books (May 25, 2010)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||James Swain|
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