*I received a free copy of this novel, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Isaac Childs has the perfect life—until that life comes crashing down when his wife Ramie vanishes.
Isaac learns that his wife’s disappearance is the ninth in a string of similar cases. In the wake of this news, he struggles to cope, to be a good father to his daughter and college-bound son, and to reclaim something of an ordinary life even as he conceals his troubled past.
After the FBI makes an arrest, and his wife is presumed dead, Isaac begins to move on. Yet will his secrets catch up with him? Has he conquered his vices for good? And what of the FBI’s theory that the case isn’t completely resolved, after all?
Isaac and Ramie Childs and their children are living the American dream. They have plenty of money, but live quietly, getting along with everyone. They have a happy marriage/happy childhood, and no problems. Or do they…?
We don’t really get to know Ramie, as the story starts with her disappearance, so accounts of her life are secondhand and exceedingly biased. However Jackson Baer clearly shows that money and family aren’t everything when it comes to happiness, as secrets come pouring out of the closet and that shiny American family disintegrate into substance addictions, hidden pain and hidden pleasures.
A consistent theme throughout the novel is that of choice. The Childs family members make bad decisions generally. They are impulsive, prone to dependence and are unable to deal with life’s problems in a healthy way. Isaac in particular takes every opportunity to take the low road in what appears to be almost deliberate self-destruction.
It was fascinating to see how Baer took these broken individuals and what he made of them as the story developed. There are two distinct strands of the story, with the police investigation taking the style of a classic crime thriller, but the main plot focus remaining firmly on the struggles of those left to cope with the aftermath.
There were twists and turns along the way that I never saw coming, and the story ends on an almost-cliffhanger, leading in to the next in the series, Life After Death. There is some disturbing imagery related to the police investigation, so I would not recommend this story to the sensitive. If you like your crime stories to be firmly anchored in the intimate details of family life then this series provides just that: a family saga with a killer side-plot.
“Authorities in Woodstock are searching for a missing person. Ramie Childs was last seen yesterday around five o’clock in the evening, before she went for her nightly run…”
From his bed, Isaac watched the Atlanta morning news. No, this wasn’t a dream. Ramie really was missing. This was no longer an if. It had actually happened. She was on the news. How did they know already? Isaac woke Carter and Olivia and headed downstairs to call the police for an update.
– Jackson Baer, An American Family
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