Review

Federal judge struggles to find his kidnapped children

Author Brad Parks' experience as a journalist covering crime shows in the detail and finesse with which he navigates court and legal proceedings.
Author Brad Parks' experience as a journalist covering crime shows in the detail and finesse with which he navigates court and legal proceedings.PHOTO: SARA HARRIS

This tale of a family losing their twin children to a clever kidnapping scheme is the stuff of parents' nightmares - and its well-constructed plot keeps readers on their toes as they skip from one dramatic revelation to another.

Where plausibility thins is in the characterisation of the father, federal judge Scott Sampson.

While the story is told from his perspective, his thoughts and actions tend to fall short of his role as a supposedly brilliant Senate staffer who took on judgeship after a near-fatal shooting incident.

Sampson is a family man who enjoys taking his six-year-olds swimming every Wednesday.

  • FICTION

  • SAY NOTHING

    By Brad Parks

    Faber & Faber/ Paperback/ $29.91/Books Kinokuniya

    3.5/5 stars

But in a break from routine, he receives a text from his wife one day, saying she would pick them up at school to see a doctor - only to find out later that the message had been sent by an impersonator.

By then, their children are nowhere to be found.

Right on cue, he receives a call from an unknown number.

"Say nothing," warns a mysterious caller, or the twins will be in danger.

To ensure their safe return, he will have to mete out a few court rulings in line with instructions - starting with his work on a drug-trafficking case.

Instead of embarking on a covert rescue mission with help from the authorities, Sampson and his wife Alison find themselves cooperating with the kidnappers as the drama unfolds.

In the process, cracks begin to show in their seemingly picture-perfect life.

With every passing day of the children's absence, fear and doubt drive a wedge in their relationship, turning them against each other.

Parks' experience as a journalist covering crime shows in the level of detail and finesse with which he navigates court and legal proceedings.

It also lends depth to the plot as Parks connects the dots in his revelation of the true perpetrator - through another court case that Sampson handles.

However, it is a pity that the sense of realism does not extend to Sampson's portrayal.

Although the novel attempts to throw some weight behind his abilities as a man who once brushed shoulders with death in his work to strengthen gun legislation, the present-day Sampson shows little of this tenacity even as he struggles with the loss of his children.

Much of his introspection instead dwells on his frustration and feelings of impotence and many of his attempts to regain control of the situation barely scratch the surface of the problem.

Readers may find the novel's build-up of suspense to be dampened by plot contrivances as well, such as its focus on an initial drug case, which eventually turns up no clear link with the perpetrator's identity.

But for those who enjoy an easy and exciting read, Say Nothing promises an emotional revelation that does not disappoint.

If you like this, read: Shining City by Tom Rosenstiel (Ecco, $44.71, Books Kinokuniya), about how a fixer, hired to vet the United States nominee for the Supreme Court, discovers the judge could be the next target in a series of killings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2017, with the headline 'Federal judge struggles to find his kidnapped children'. Print Edition | Subscribe