KIDNAPPED opens with the violent murder of prominent Las Piernas
artist Richard Fletcher by Cleo Smith, a sociopathic serial killer.
Cleo successfully plants enough forensic evidence to send Richard's
son, Mason, to prison for first-degree murder. Mason was discovered
a day later, slumped over the wheel of the family car,
half-dressed, drunk and unconscious, the murder instrument and
bloody clothes in the trunk of the car. His sister, Jenny, was
missing and presumed dead, but no body was ever found. With
evidence pointing to Mason, he was convicted of murder and sent to
Five years later, when reporter Irene Kelly, a feature writer for
the Las Piernas Express, writes a series on kidnapped
children, she receives an avalanche of calls from anguished parents
and family members of missing children. Among them is Caleb
Fletcher, Mason's younger brother, who contacts Irene about his
missing sister Jenny. Caleb, a graduate student studying forensic
science with Las Piernas forensics expert Ben Sheridan, firmly
believes in Mason's innocence and has never accepted that his
little sister was dead.
Irene, who should be accustomed to kicking up controversy since she
has become entangled in more than one murder during her career at
the Express, realizes that she has opened a Pandora's Box as
buried bodies begin to surface. A string of regional kidnappings
and murders points to the Fletchers, a huge, prosperous and
influential Las Piernas family. Irene must step carefully as her
husband, Detective Frank Harriman of the Los Piernas Sheriff's
department, is called upon to investigate the murder scenes.
The Fletchers are cultured, refined and fabulously wealthy,
allowing some of the more sinister members to hide behind the aura
of respectability built on the reputation of the elder generation.
There are dozens of Fletcher siblings who operate an elite private
school, a research facility and local businesses in what begins to
look like a cult atmosphere.
The strong plot and compelling characters keep the pages turning as
the ruthless Cleo and her scheming confederates prey on families in
need. Keeping track of all the characters might present a challenge
to the average writer, but Jan Burke skillfully unravels the
tangled web of police, reporters and the ubiquitous Fletchers to
tie up all the loose ends. Through the use of forensic sniffer
dogs, old friend and colleague Ben Sheridan and his
protégé Caleb Fletcher quite literally dig up and expose
the dark truth of the Fletcher family, turning the DNA evidence
Cleo has so cleverly planted against her.
KIDNAPPED is the 12th book by award-winning novelist Jan Burke. Her
fascination with forensic evidence has propelled her character,
Irene Kelly, into the forefront of the public interest in police
science brought about by the hit "CSI" television programs.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 22, 2011