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One of the staples of thriller literature is the deranged
killer. The more imaginative authors are able to use these madmen
to take their readers by the hand and nudge them to varying degrees
in the direction of the abyss of madness. In some cases, it’s
a glance toward it; in others, a peek downward. And, in the most
extreme, it’s a push forward when you reach the edge.
ABANDONED by Cody McFadyen goes a bit further, dragging you kicking
and screaming to the chasm and then giving you a hearty two-handed

While this is only McFadyen’s fourth novel, his writing is
possessed with a sureness and confidence that some veteran authors
would kill for. This talent is beautifully displayed in ABANDONED,
which features the return of Smoky Barrett. An FBI Special Agent,
Smoky has had so much happen to her in McFayden’s preceding
volumes that the mere whisper of her presence is enough to cause
familiar readers to cringe. Her family murdered and her face
terribly scarred (not once, but twice), one fears what will happen
to our heroine next. But somehow, she finds the strength to soldier
on. And in ABANDONED, she finally has a chance at happiness: she is
in a relationship with the quiet and capable --- and very deadly
--- Tommy; she has Bonnie, her adopted daughter, who is everything
one could wish for in a child; and, separate from this, she has two
secrets, one she keeps with Tommy and the other from him.

While celebrating the wedding of Callie, her team member, Smoky
receives an enigmatic text message followed shortly by the abrupt
deposit of a seriously injured woman into the midst of the
festivities. The woman, a police officer, had been missing for
seven years and is unable to describe what has happened to her in
her current condition. Smoky and her team begin an investigation,
one that uncovers what appears to be a clandestine service run by a
criminal mastermind who, for a significant fee, will make a
troublesome wife disappear without a trace. That is, until such
time as she can legally be declared dead and insurance proceeds can
be collected. The provider of the service is detached, precise and
amoral. And heaven help the man who reneges on the agreement.

Smoky precisely and methodically leads her team through the
investigation, discovering similar occurrences as they slowly move
in on the fiend. Then, just as they seem to be on the verge of
honing in on him, the unthinkable happens. Smoky has to make a
terrible choice, one that will change her and the team forever,
even as the identity of the mastermind provides the biggest
surprise of all.

I haven’t lived what one could call a sheltered life by
any stretch of the imagination, but McFadyen manages to make me
cringe. Naturally, I loved every word, every sentence.
McFadyen’s storytelling prowess and plotting ability as
displayed in ABANDONED would be enough to recommend it; however, he
is also a remarkable writer who brings considerable literary skills
to the desk. The result is a work that, while horrifying in (many)
places, skillfully slices into and out of that which is life, good
and bad. Be fairly warned: the trip into the abyss is long and
frightening...but worth taking.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010

by Cody McFadyen

  • Publication Date: July 27, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553591347
  • ISBN-13: 9780553591347