When a kidnapped victim is released, we tend to think that’s the happy ending to their story, or at least to that chapter or ordeal. But Dee Henderson starts there in her newest novel, Taken. Shannon Bliss had been missing for eleven years, having been abducted at the age of 16. She escaped on her own and sought out private investigator Matthew Dane to help her take the next steps. He’s a former police officer, but he’s also the father of a kidnap victim: his daughter had been missing for a number of years, so Shannon feels Matthew can help her in a unique way that others could not.
I’ve always pictured recovered kidnapping victims as spending their first few days, after a medical check-up, giving their testimony to various officials. I don’t know how it works in real life, but in this book, Shannon shares the details of what happened in small bits at a time. One reason is that she can’t bring herself to lay it all out at once, but there are bigger reasons: the family who took her thinks she is dead, and her life might be in danger if they find out she’s alive, plus she is waiting on one friend who also had plans to escape, plus she has evidence that could put the whole family away if it’s shared at the right time and handled the right way. Her abductors were a large network of family members involved in a number of crimes, so Shannon wants to tread carefully in order to catch as many as possible, especially the most dangerous.
Matthew is friends with FBI Special Agent Paul Falcon (from Dee’s previous novel Full Disclosure) and is able to pass along information as Shannon shares it. His experience with his daughter’s kidnapping is helpful, but he has to learn that Shannon is older and copes in her own way. Still, he recognizes that she is still in survivor mode and that at some point the emotions will hit. For now, he helps her process things, acts as a buffer between her and the public and the police, and advises and protects her.
An added wrinkle is that her brother is running for governor and has mentioned his missing sister in his campaign. Deciding when to tell and meet with him and then when and how he should make the news public requires much thought.
Most of Dee’s books are edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. This was not that way, but I still enjoyed finding out Shannon’s story as it unfolded and seeing what happened afterward.
Of particular interest, and something Matthew is surprised at, is that her faith didn’t suffer through her ordeal. In quite an interesting conversation between them about free will, Shannon says,
“But God decided to create a world where free will was more important than no one ever getting hurt. There must be something stunningly beautiful and remarkable about free will that only God can truly grasp, because God hates, literally abhors, evil, yet He created a world where evil could happen if people chose it. God sees something in free will and choice that’s worth tolerating the horrifying blackness that would appear if evil was chosen rather than good. I find that utterly remarkable” (pp. 107-108).
“God gave Adam and Eve that free will and choice. He gave them one warning: eat of any tree that is here, including the wonderful tree of life, but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…I wish Adam and Eve had thought more about what knowledge meant. Eve saw it as a good thing, to know more. But how do you really know something? You experience it” (p. 108).
I disagreed when she said “God expected, fully intended, for Adam and Eve to obey what He had said,” since the Bible speaks of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). That and other verses (besides verses about God’s omniscience) indicate that of course God knew what was going to happen. But I agree with her conclusion that man’s evil choices don’t make God evil, despite the fact that God could have stopped them, and that He gives grace and help in the midst of that pain of people’s wrong choices. “God has been acting honorably throughout history regrading what He wants. We’re the ones at fault. God is good. And I still really, truly like Him” (p. 109).
I’m always reluctant to get to the end of Dee’s books, because the characters feel like friends and I kind of miss them when the story is over. But in the last few, characters from some of her other books make appearances in the newer ones, so it’s neat to feel like you’re touching base with them again.
This was a book I made time for beyond my usual reading times, and I very much enjoyed it.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)