Author: Brad Parks
Publisher: Dutton Books
Say Nothing by Brad Parks is a thriller that had great potential that it somehow failed to live up to.
Scott Sampson is a good father to six-year-old twins Sam and Emma, a loving husband to wife Alison and a federal judge in a rural area in the US. His beautifully constructed life is unraveled when he gets a text from his wife, saying that she will pick up the children after school.
But she never sent it.
The children are kidnapped by dangerous people who warn of terrible consequences if the authorities are brought in. Say nothing, Scott is told.
Soon, he learns that the kidnappers want to control the verdict of a case, US versus Skavron, which Scott is to hear the following day.
The kidnap sends the loving couple to our own sections of the house and our own separate hells, totally upturning their lives and bringing about a rift in their marriage. In bed, two feet apart… felt like a thousand miles.
At work, Scott can barely concentrate. His lack of focus begins to affect his work. When the kidnappers seek to influence his judgements on pain of hurting his kids, it seriously impairs his ability to function with effectiveness and integrity.
At first it seems that they want to influence his judgement with regard to Skavron. When he gives them the judgement they seek, Sam is released, while Emma is detained further. It is at this time that Scott becomes aware of another case he is to hear: A multi-billion dollar patent infringement case, Palgraff versus ApotheGen.
Scott has no idea which of the two parties might have kidnapped Emma, and therefore what verdict he is expected to deliver to get Emma back.
He hires a private investigator, intent on finding Emma, but all his efforts prove fruitless. When the PI is murdered by the kidnappers, Scott is no closer to finding his daughter.
As the date for the hearing nears, will he and Alison find their daughter? Or will they suffer the greatest loss of their lives?
The book is written in the first person past tense point of view of Scott. We also get the third person past tense point of view of the kidnappers, two brothers of unknown ethnicity who have kidnapped the twins on behalf of an unknown person.
Because we have the kidnappers’ perspective, we know what condition the twins are being kept in. but that does not diminish the sense of anxiety we feel at the thought of the six-year-old Emma, who is asthmatic, suffering at the hands of the brutish and sadistic kidnappers.
Since Scott is a judge and the fate of his children hinges on a court case, we get a lot of what goes on behind the scenes. At first, he thinks that the kidnappers want Rayshaun Skavron, a smalltime drug dealer freed, but they want him sentenced on two counts, subsequently.
Scott’s views on parenting stem largely from the author’s own, that’s easy to tell. It’s something that all parents will agree with.
Scott’s love for his children leads him to speak at length about the bond between parents and children. He says, There’s something about having genuine fun with your kids that’s good for the soul. Another time he says, Watching your children sleep is one of the great joys of parenting.
It is this bond that helps him realise that It’s far more distressing when something happens to your kids than when it happens to you.
Even after Sam is returned, you can feel his pain at the loss of Emma when he says, each of us trying to adjust to a family that had so unexpectedly morphed from square to triangle.
He also makes comments about the bond between Alison and her three sisters who play an important role in supporting the couple, Internally fractured yet externally united. The world over, it’s the very definition of sisterhood.
I also liked the description of sociopaths. They were like houses. Where all the wiring is done, except the electrician has forgotten to make that final connection to the thing that makes us human, leaving the entire dwelling dark and unfit for occupation.
The story becomes powerful when you realise that Scott, who began his story by telling us he is content and that he has it all, is about to lose everything valuable in his life. One by one, all the props upon which his life depended are taken away from him.
And yet the drama of it all, of a harried judge about to face impeachment proceedings, a wife in the final stage of breast cancer, a little girl in captivity, gets diluted with the revelation of the person responsible for the kidnap.
The ending, though inevitable, was very sad.
(I got a free ARC from FirstToRead).