Three stars (of five)
First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Tom Kakonis, and Brash Books for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.
New to the Kakonis world of writing, I sought to expand my horizons and determine if he might be an author worth exploring further. After this novel, I am not yet completely sold. A trip to the planetarium goes horribly wrong for Marshall and Lori Quinn when their son, Jeff, goes missing. As they turn to the authorities for help, the Quinns soon realise that they are on their own. No leads, no clues, and few ideas keep the Chicago Police disinterested, or at least without the needed momentum to forge ahead. Marshall decides to take things into his own hands, as he refuses to give up searching. Small leads go nowhere, but he will not stop until Jeff is back home. Meanwhile, Jeff has become a victim of illicit adoption, purchased through channels that trace back to a group of men, each aware of only a small piece of the puzzle. In an attempt to fill a familial void, Jeff (now Davie) plays a role and is led to believe that his birth parents are gone forever, replaced by a new and loving pair. While Marshall Quinn scours his mind and trips on clues, he is frantic to do what no one else seems interested in doing, finding Jeff and returning him to his rightful family? Kanonis keeps the reader curious and wondering from beginning to end in this multi-part novel, which flows effectively through its seven time periods.
While the premise is solid and the delivery keeps the reader engaged, the novel has some issues that I felt were consistent and, at times, highly distracting. Kakonis has a wonderful way with prose, from the early pages of the novel as he analytically describes how his characters tackle eating a hot dog to the pace Marshall takes as he searching suburban Chicago for his son. Juxtaposed with this is a choppy and contraction-filled dialogue, which encapsulates the speech patters likely found in blue-collar factories. The issue here is that the reader is left with such a literary dichotomy that one cannot synthesise the story effectively. Is this high- or low-brow? The story is neither Chicago or class-focussed, leaving me to wonder why Kakokis chose these two styles and layered them together. He does both so well, but they distract from one another. His characters are strong, his pace is decent, and even the flow of the plot keeps the reader wanting to push ahead. It is the delivery that hampers the stellar quality of this novel, which I cannot divorce from its foundational presentation.
Kudos, Mister Kakonis for this entertaining piece. Had some of these issues been found in a larger group or at the editorial level, I could surely have lauded you with more praise for a quick-paced novel that pulls on the heartstrings of all parents.