One Kick: A Kick Lannigan Novel
I was a huge fan of Chelsea Cain’s Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series from its beginning, and remain so. ONE KICK hits the reset button on her literary career with an entirely new series and characters, not to mention a somewhat different narrative tone. It’s a gutsy move, one that many authors would not have attempted. However, Cain’s confidence is rewarded with her new novel; it won’t cause you to forget Sheridan and Lowell, but you won’t regret the shift in stories and protagonists one bit.
The “Kick” referred to in the title is Kick Lannigan, whose status in the spotlight as an international celebrity was born out of misfortune. Kick was abducted by a stranger at age six and was the subject of a nationwide hunt. Her recovery five years later was heralded as miraculous and resulted in celebrity, though one born of misfortune. Kick, when we meet her at age 21, is strong in some ways, damaged in others; what is certain in her mind is that she will never be a victim again. Having undergone training in several personal defense disciplines incorporating everything from firearms to knives to open hand combat, Kick maintains a carefully constructed and preserved life with a man named James, who she considers her brother, and Monster, her now-ancient dog whose existence indirectly led to her abduction and directly resulted in her reunion with her family.
"Cain offers much more than what is otherwise a superlative thriller. In addition to a cast of intriguing, memorable characters of varying and extreme degrees of good and evil, she gives the reader a glimpse into the network of child exploiters."
However, two related contemporary events invade the life she has carefully created for herself. The first consists of two separate child abductions in Washington State, practically next door to Kick’s residence in Portland, Oregon. The second is a mysterious man named Bishop, who insinuates himself into her life. Bishop introduces himself in bits and pieces as a former weapons dealer who is well-connected with the law enforcement information network and is able to tap into what appears to be the wallet of endless wealth. Bishop offers Kick his seemingly unlimited resources --- and power --- in return for her assistance in the hunt to locate the two missing children. It seems there is a connection between the most recent abductions and the one that Kick underwent a decade before. It seems unlikely, given that Mel, the man responsible for Kick’s abduction and abuse as they traveled around the country, is currently dying in prison.
As Kick is well aware, though, Mel was not alone in abusing her. A monster among monsters intersected her life, and though she had thought him to be long dead, he is still very much alive and continuing his unspeakable activities. Kick’s indescribable experiences left her with knowledge, paid for with tragic and bitter coin, of how and where the network of child exploiters operate. Kick, aided by Bishop, follows the faint trail that she left 10 years before, while the lives of two children --- and the one person who Kick truly loves --- hang precariously in the balance.
Cain offers much more than what is otherwise a superlative thriller. In addition to a cast of intriguing, memorable characters of varying and extreme degrees of good and evil, she gives the reader a glimpse into the network of child exploiters. These people are not, contrary to the popular wisdom, “out there.” They are among us, as close as the neighbor on the next block who you don’t know other than to nod “hello” to. You won’t read ONE KICK without hoping that someone like Kick or Bishop is out hunting these people down --- and wanting to read many more installments of the series from the mind and heart of Cain.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 22, 2014