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The Stolen Hours


The Stolen Hours

Allen Eskens is able to quietly create characters and stories that sneak up on you, get under your skin and make you think. His latest release, THE STOLEN HOURS, is no exception. Set in his home state of Minnesota, it combines his personal knowledge of the legal system with an outstanding redemption tale.

Lila Nash is a legal assistant for the Hennepin County Government Center. Her dream of being a prosecutor has been derailed by a violent rape that occurred eight years earlier and has left her with serious PTSD. That was following the period when she was just plain suicidal. At least she has a devoted husband, Joe, and her work to keep her occupied. What Lila is not expecting is a case that will reopen all those old wounds and lead her down roads, both physically and psychologically, that she has not traveled in years.

"A near-perfect thriller, THE STOLEN HOURS is a true nail-biter that will have you reading long into the night."

They say that serial killers are made, not born, and are the product of their upbringing, which typically involves some sort of abuse or humiliation. The human monster in this novel is the physically unassuming Gavin Spenser, a wedding photographer with a sick hunger for revenge against women who he either wanted and could not have or who derided him in some way.

Gavin is a criminal genius who watches crime shows on TV and mocks how the so-called criminals he sees have no idea how to pull off the perfect crime. He has hidden trophy rooms in the attic of his mother’s home, as well as disposable laptops used exclusively for hunting down his prey while not leaving an electronic footprint. His deformity, an embarrassing lisp that he has not been able to hide, reminded me of Mr. Dolarhyde from Thomas Harris’ classic RED DRAGON, who had a cleft lip he could never overcome.

For his next victim, Gavin targets Sadie Vauk, a bridesmaid at his most recent assignment who had continually mocked him throughout the wedding. He uses his tools to locate her at the salon where she works and arranges it so that he is her last appointment one evening. His MO is to drug his victims, rape them and toss them off a bridge into the Mississippi River. Things don’t go exactly as planned with Sadie, who comes out of her drugged stupor fairly quickly; she is able to overpower him and get away from his attempts to drown her. He flees as she is found by the security guard at a local company off the river. Sadie can easily identify Gavin in a police lineup, and he is taken to jail where he awaits trial.

Meanwhile, Lila is having to deal with some difficult office politics involving Frank Dovey, who is her new division head and bears a grudge against her for a prior case where they were on opposite sides and a loss that may have cost him a judgeship. Lila now reports to Andi, a tough but fair woman who is eager to push her and give her opportunities. All of that faith in Lila may come crashing down when she has a small meltdown during a pre-trial hearing for the Gavin Spenser case.

What transpires throughout the book is some brilliant plotting by Allen Eskens. Every time it seems that things are going to work out for Lila, something in the form of a fancy plot twist spoils that optimism. You cannot help but feel for her and the pain she has gone through. A near-perfect thriller, THE STOLEN HOURS is a true nail-biter that will have you reading long into the night.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 11, 2021

The Stolen Hours
by Allen Eskens

  • Publication Date: August 30, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316703516
  • ISBN-13: 9780316703512