Blind Spot, by Tom Kakonis***-****

BlindspotThis one is 3.5 stars, rounded up. Thanks go to my friends at Brash Books for permitting me access to a DRC. The book is available for sale now.

Kakonis is a kick in the pants, and he builds suspense like nobody’s business. What could be scarier than having one’s youngster snatched by a stranger? The stakes build high, higher, and higher still. Into the bargain we are concerned for the hopeful yet still-grieving mother who believes she has lawfully adopted young Davie (formerly Jeff). Her own child, Sara, died tragically, and her husband has done everything, including the unthinkable, to bring home another child to make the family feel whole again.

Meanwhile, the Quinns search everywhere for their son. After the first 48 hours, the cops have clearly quit looking, so they print flyers to tack on every available public surface, and for good measure, they post an extra large one on their own car window. The “blind spot” occurs when a friend of the new parents passes the Quinns’ car in traffic. The friend’s husband is at the wheel, leaving her free to crane her neck and gawk at the poster, and Marshall Quinn’s pulse quickens as he sees the woman’s mouth form the words, “I know that kid.” Now the search is even more heated as Marshall searches for Della, the woman who knows who has their little boy.

Kakonis’s strength is in his spicy dialogue and strange dialects. In some ways his work is hyper-literate, delving into vocabulary most folks may not see often, but both the dialogue between characters and the internal dialogue as well are so riddled with offensive terms that it’s hard to enjoy. It’s true that Kakonis uses these terms to make plain who is a bad guy and who is not—not that it’s ever unclear, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen an author use the device to make us hate a character even more than we already do. But in such a case, less is more, and the whole first half of the story is studded with really ugly racist expressions, as well as slurs on women, the aged, and the gay. I can see where there would once have been a readership that would have casually flicked through these terms and excused them either because they were untroubled by them at all, or because it is the villain that generally says them. I know this work is seeing fresh publication after a hiatus. But to me, it feels like a lot of work to sift through the epithets to find the mystery under all that sludge.

I considered rating this tale, one with strong pacing and characterization but so many challenges, as 3 stars, but I enjoyed another of this author’s stories quite a lot, and some of the good will has carried over into this review. I’m not ready to give up on this writer’s work yet.

For those that like a fast-paced thriller or mystery and that can overlook the issues I have mentioned, this book is recommended.

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