It is probably every parent's worst nightmare, despite the fact that it almost never happens-stranger abduction. As much as popular media would like us to think that a child is being snatched off the street every few seconds by some slathering monster, the fact is that most child abductions are perpetrated by someone the child knows. But the same media culture that seems to revel in sensationalizing the tragic stories of abducted children has created within our society a deep-seated fear of the other, the dark stranger, the playground stalker. It is that fear that is highlighted in Greg Iles 2000 release, 24 Hours.
Will Jennings is a successful doctor, a well-respected anesthesiologist who has been asked to speak at the Mississippi doctor's association convention. A small plane pilot, Jennings decides to fly down to the conference in his small engine plane. When his wife, Karen, arrives home from the airport with their daughter Abby, Joe Hickey is waiting for them. Joe, his mentally retarded cousin Huey, and his stripper-turned-wife Cheryl have a plan-spirit Abby out of the house, take Karen hostage, and contact Will to set up a ransom exchange. The plan is supposed to take 24 hours, and if everyone cooperates, Will and Karen will be reunited with Abby once the money is changes hands. But what Joe Hickey didn't know was that Abby has juvenile diabetes, and needs insulin shots at regular intervals. And what Will and Karen don't know, but soon discover, is that Hickey has a very personal reason for choosing their family for his fifth and final kidnapping plot.
I've been a fan of Iles' work since I read True Evil, so I was happy to pick this one up at the library book sale. 24 Hours is an earlier book, and it is obvious that Iles has become more skilled with his craft since he wrote it in 2000. It's a little slow getting started, but it eventually picks up and becomes as exciting and action-packed as his other books. It even has an "Of Mice and Men" vibe going. The relationship between Joe and Huey reminded me a bit of Lennie and George-if George had been an evil mastermind, that is. All of the family member's characters are well-developed as well, even five year old Abby. While the final resolution of the kidnapping is more like a scene from a Bruce Willis action movie than something that could possibly really happen, it definitely kept me riveted until the very last page. A good summer read for mystery/thriller lovers like me.