Enter the frantic and uncertain world of intrigue and deceit in this riveting international thriller by Chris Pavone. John’s phone is gone, but he does not pick up or reply to her text. There is no note.
Very concerned she first approaches the hotel staff and security to no avail. With escalating concern, Ariel contacts the local police and is met with indifference at best. Soon she contacts the US embassy and is underwhelmed by the attitude of the smarmy and condescending aid. And yet, this same low-level aid presents his impressions and concerns to the adjacent CIA officer in the building.
During this unfruitful visit to the embassy, an American journalist is hovering nearby and smells a possible story. He confronts Ariel, but is politely rebuffed. But he will not be deterred, and persistently dogs her and the locals for further details.
While the clock is ticking, in spite of the initial indifference to her plight, the veracity and significance of the situation is actually being investigated by the Lisbon police, CIA, and the journalist.
Quickly on the streets, a black shrouded motorcyclist accosts her and thrusts a burner phone into her hands. The electronically altered voice indicates her husband has been kidnapped, and unless a ransom of three million euros is paid, he will be executed. Neither John or Ariel have this kind of money, and this is occurring during the July 4th weekend, making it impossible to obtain such a large sum. There is only one man who has access to such a sum—a shadowy powerful man from her past, which she has taken great effort to escape.
The narrative is largely through Ariel’s POV, with frequent flashbacks laying down pertinent backstory. There is definite linkage to her past lives. After college and a stalled career as an actress, the beautiful and lithe Laurel (her original name) marries a powerful and rich husband, Buckminster (“Bucky”) Turner. She seemingly slips into the privileged lifestyle, but is restless and reluctant with its vacuousness of purpose, and ultimately divorce is the answer.
In her second incarnation, she is Ariel Pryce, running a bookstore in a small town, while living on a farm with her son. The multifaceted investigations uncover multiple mysteries and secrets in both Ariel and John’s pasts. Ariel reluctantly contacts and virtually extorts this abhorrent man from her past to obtain the ransom … as the hours tick by closer to her new husbands’ demise.
Chris Pavone crafts a masterful convoluted narrative brimming with feints and surprise reveals that escalate to a near impossible denouement. Intricate plots and subplots are commonplace in this insightful novel. Pavone masterfully incorporates themes of abused and dismissed women, along with revenge and retribution.
For the audiobook version, the narration is provided by the talented actress, January LaVoy. Her multidimensional presentation was notable not only for the variation of accents that allowed easy differentiation of the characters but more importantly accurately set the appropriate tone, suspense and intrigue. She truly brought to life the characters in the theatre of my mind. I certainly will seek out other audiobooks for the sheer pleasure of listening to her presentation.
Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing an Advance Audio Recording in exchange for an honest review.