At age seven, while on a mission trip with her father, Lisa Harper witnesses her dad's murder before being abducted. Barely escaping, she returns home, only to suppress her memories. Her mother Annie, the police, and even the media all agree that it's best for Lisa if she forgets the whole traumatic experience. If and when Lisa remembers, Annie wants it to be in God's time.
Several years later, Annie forfeits custody of Lisa to a friend to get her daughter away from her abusive and evil husband, Dutch Hauk. Dutch holds Annie prisoner in her own home and hates Lisa, and is determined to ruin her life. As a Christian, Annie will not divorce Dutch. She believes in keeping her marriage vows and trusts that God has a plan in her life. She sacrifices all contact with Lisa except for occasional phone calls arranged by friend and former Special Operations Officer Mark Taylor.
Now, 12 years later, Lisa is a black-belt self-defense instructor who has just finished medical school. Annie goes to great lengths to sneak out of the house to attend Lisa's graduation party. On the way, she gets beaten to a pulp and lapses into a coma. Mark and Lisa rush to the hospital, where Lisa is abducted for the second time.
Mark and his Special Ops team suspect that Dutch is behind Annie's beating and Lisa's disappearance. Mark is battling his own demons, feeling like he has let down every woman he's ever loved. He admits he's loved Lisa since the first time he saw her and prays he'll be able to save her before it's too late. As Mark works with his team to get closer to the truth and rescue Lisa, even he can't believe the depths of the evil revealed.
DEADLY TIES is the second installment in the Crossroads Crisis Center series. Even though promoted as a viable stand-alone, I strongly recommend reading the first book, FORGET ME NOT, before this one. For me, the first few dozen pages were quite confusing as I tried to keep track of the many characters and understand how they related to one another. Mark and Lisa's history is vague, and the various follow-up plotlines from book one are not thoroughly explained. It really wasn't until around page 100 when things started coming together for me.
Once the action picks up, the story becomes more enjoyable. The subject of human trafficking is handled well, depicting the horror and reality of this very prevalent crime, while staying away from anything too graphic or disturbing. While some elements are predictable and seem contrived, for the most part, it moves along at a steady pace.
One message that author Vicki Hinze clearly wants readers to grasp is that God is faithful and has a purpose for our lives. That He can take something dark and ugly and turn it into something beautiful. That what we perceive as hardship or adversity now might be preparing us for the future. Both Lisa and Mark realize this in a profound way by story's end. There is much spiritual reference throughout. Some readers may find it a bit preachy, but I didn't consider it overbearing in any way.
The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, and the door is left open for another addition to the series. In fact, a note at the end of the book informs us that novel #3, NOT THIS TIME, will be released in Spring 2012. Fans of Hinze's writing will likely enjoy DEADLY TIES. For romantic suspense lovers who are unfamiliar with her work, if the books are read in order, this series may be just enough to make you a fan.
Reviewed by Lynda Schab on February 8, 2011