One Child Alive
reviewed by Cara DiCostanzo
“One, two, three. She counts the bodies dragged from the burning beach house, smoke rising from their cotton pajamas, and remembers a fourth; red hair, freckles, clinging to his mother’s legs, begging to watch the fireworks a while longer. ‘Where’s the little boy?’ she whispers.”
It is the fourth of July in the small town of Fog Harbor, California. While most families are enjoying the fireworks, the loud booms and oohs and ah’s from the locals drown out the gunshots of a prominent local family being murdered at a house right on the beach. A Mother and two of her three children are shot dead and their house is set on fire but where is the third child, little red-headed Thomas. They found the Father shot to death in a car some miles away and they also set his car on fire. Psychologist Olivia Rockwell follows his toys and footsteps only to find him hiding under a lifeguard stand. But how did he get away? And why does he scream when he sees the police officer, Detective Will Decker?
While there are many interesting characters in this novel, it is told only from Olivia and Deck’s points of view, so the finale is a total surprise. I would have loved to hear the child’s point of view, as well. I really enjoy mysteries where you have not a clue who the perpetrator is, and this book did not disappoint. Though there are several suspects: the husband’s lover, the rogue cop and the prisoner out for revenge, One Child Alive is unpredictable, fast-paced and exciting. There are many side plots such as Olivia and Decker’s burgeoning romance, Olivia’s relationship with her sister and the little boy who keeps running away. One of my favorite parts of the book is the banter between Decker and his partner JB. While JB was on leave most of this book, I found him a very likable character and hope to see more of him in future installments. Another thing I enjoyed is that most of the characters in Ellery Kane’s novel are flawed. They make poor decisions, wrong guesses and suffer consequences.
One Child Alive is the third installment of the Decker/Rockwell series, but my first book in this action packed police procedural. I do not think you need to read the first two books but might be helpful for some things they refer to. There are definitely back stories, including the murder of Olivia’s father and her relationship with her stepbrother that it would be good to have more information about. This book also bears a slight resemblance to the movie Witness, first aired in 1985. Also about a young boy who has witnessed a murder and cannot talk about it.