Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Cache a Predator by M. Weidenbenner

M. Weidenbenner
Police Detective Brett Reed had not been having a good year. After divorcing his drug addicted wife, Ali, in an attempt to keep his five year-old daughter, Quinn, safe from Ali’s negligence; a judge had believed Ali’s claims of abuse and had granted her custody of - not only Quinn - but the dog, the house; and there was now a protection order that made it even more difficult for Brett to assure Quinn’s safety. To make matters even worse, there were now fabricated rumors that Brett had possibly sexually violated Quinn. Things then get even worse when Ali is killed in a car crash just as a serial mutilator has begun a vigilante crusade against known and accused child molesters.

Cover design by Cathy Helms
Cache a Predator by M. Weidenbenner is a thrilling procedural novel with all of the bells and whistles: a child at risk, a friendly dog, a beautiful and intelligent foil/love interest for the protagonist, tons of interpersonal relationships, and enough well-thought-out gimmicks to make the Sky Mall Catalog jealous. The title, for example, is not a misspelled reference to Chris Hansen’s willful entrapment specials. Rather, it is a pun playing on the idea that the serial mutilator has a plot-device of hiding his or her severed trophies in geocaching treasure boxes for hapless hikers to accidentally discover. Another is her tactic of telling the story in the third person with the occasional first person sojourn into the mind of our unknown whacker.

Weidenbenner has clearly researched her details. The surgical minutiae of the amputations, the legalese of the ongoing custody battle, the tactics employed by the police, the idioms of the geocaching hobbyists: all ring true and realistic. The interactions and motivations of the characters are believable and insightful. The imagery is vivid. The language is accessible. If not for the graphic nature of the Bobbit-like abstractions, I could see this as a Lifetime movie project.

If I had to criticize something about this novel, it would be that at times (especially near the end) it seems to have been written by committee. Some of the emotional elements seem over-written, as if several beta readers and editors had given input about ideas they think needed to be conveyed or loose-ends that they felt needed tied-up, and the flow of the narrative suffers slightly for it; but not so much that it makes the story unreadable or even off-putting. It’s utterly engrossing from start to finish.

Cache a Predator drops on July 30 on Kindle Select and will be available in paperback the following month. Ms Weidenbenner invites you to follow her blog, her Twitter feed and to like her Facebook page.

     When she finally fell asleep, she dreamed she was a child again. That she and her brother were playing tag outside near the barn, and their mother was calling to them, standing in the front yard with a kite in her hand. She played out some of the string, and the kite’s rainbow colors sailed back and forth in the wind. She said, “Come, I’ll teach you how to fly a kite.”
     Sarah and Dean giggled and ran to her, running against the wind. But the wind’s force pushed Sarah back and made her run harder to gain distance. She gulped air and lost her breath. The more she ran toward her mother, the farther the wind pushed her back. She yelled, “I’m coming, Mama.” But the wind took the sound of her words away. Her mama kept waving for them to come.
     Dean held Sarah’s hand. Little brother, Dean. His tiny arms and legs just like thin tree branches. He was always small for his age and sickly. She tightened her grip on his hand, certain the wind would blow him away from her if she didn’t. “Hold tight, little brother. We’ll get there.”
     But the more they tried, the farther they fell back, until finally Sarah couldn’t see her mother anymore. She’d disappeared. The wind died, and their father loomed above them. His yellow teeth, his bent nose, and the scar on his forehead stared back at them. When she heard his deranged, boisterous laugh she screamed, which made him laugh all the more.
     Sarah bolted upright in bed, her heart racing. Perspiration crawled down her neck like ants marching up a tree. Why had the old man suddenly appeared in her dreams here in her mother’s room? It was like he was taunting her, saying, “You can’t escape me.” Oh, how she hated him.

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