The Murder Artist by John Case (pseudonym for Jim & Carolyn Hougan)was originally published in 2004. My hardcover copy has 435 pages. The Murder Artist is different from other Case novels, but keeps the level of suspense high. It is written as a first person narrative of Alex Callahan, whose sons are abducted at a visit to a Renaissance Fair. This thriller focuses on the investigation and search for Sean and Kevin. This is a fine thriller, well written and fast paced, with good character development. My only quibble was with the very abrupt ending, which angered me last night, but, upon reflection, I'm more accepting of it today. Very highly recommended. Rating: 4.5.
Synopsis from cover:
As a television news correspondent, Alex Callahan has traveled to some of the most dangerous corners of the globe, covering famine, plague, and war. He's seen more than his share of blood and death, and knows what it means to be afraid. But what he's never known is the terror that grabs him when, on a tranquil summer afternoon, he ceases to be an observer of the dark side and, to his shock, becomes enmeshed in it.
Separated from his wife, and struggling not to become a stranger to his six-year-old twin sons, Alex is logging some all-too-rare quality time with the boys when they vanish without a trace amid the hurly-burly of a countryside Renaissance Fair.
Then the phone call comes. A chilling silence, slow, steady breathing, and the familiar, plaintive voice of a child — "Daddy?" — complete the nightmare and set in motion a juggernaut of frenzy and agony.
The longer the police search, exhausting leads without success, the deeper Alex's certainty grows that time is running out. And when, at last, telltale signs reveal a hidden pattern of bizarre and ghoulish abductions, Alex vows to use his own relentless investigative skills to rescue his children from the shadowy figure dubbed The Piper.
Whoever this elusive stranger is, the profile that slowly emerges — from previous crimes involving twins, from the zealously secret world of professional magicians, and from the eerie culture of voodoo — suggests that The Piper is a predator unlike any other. A twisted soul hell-bent on fulfilling an unspeakably dark dream. A fiend with a terrifying true calling. What Alex Callahan is closing in on is a monster with a mission.
"Five hours of sleep. I rub my eyes, head out front, and bend down to extract my rolled up copy of The Washington Post from beneath an azalea bush." opening
"The boys and I are doing great so far - although after only six days, I'm already wiped out and playing catch-up at the station. This would make Liz happy, both the sleep deprivation and the fact that after less than a week, I'm already falling behind at work." pg. 4
"They don't mind my lack of excitement. I used to fake it, revving up bogus enthusiasm on those occasions Liz guilt-tripped me into going along on some kid-centric outing. It didn't fly, so it's a relief to realize that they don't actually care if Dad is having a good time. They're kids; it's about them." pg. 12-13
"I sit on the hay bale for longer that I should because, as I eventually figure out, the moment I leave and walk away from the jousting arena, I'll be admitting that my sons are really gone, that something terrible has happening, something that requires the police. It's dumb fear wrapped in desperate hope, but several minutes tick by while I'm paralyzed in this fog of superstition." pg. 20
"I'm still hanging on to the idea that the boys are lost. The word abduction crashed through my head like a dum-dum bullet." pg. 31
"Christiansen rambles on. 'Nine times out of ten, it's someone who knows the kid. Nine times outta ten, it's a parent.'
Here's the truth: Christiansen isn't babysitting. I'm a suspect." pg. 46
"I realize - and the thought fills me with guilt - that I am tired of my parents, that I wish they would go home. Jack too. I know they've come because they had to come and lend whatever support they can. I guess I'd be hurt if they hadn't come. But it feels as if Liz and I have to take care of them." pg. 82