A Father’s Nightmare – “A Critical Loss of Balance” by Mark E. Shaver
Cliff Elliot, his wife Faye, and their daughter Lizzy are a normal family until the day Faye and Lizzy are attacked and Lizzy gets kidnapped. The cops are confused. There’s been a string of kidnappings, but normally the families are wealthy, and this family is working class. After another (wealthy) family pays the ransom to get their own kidnapped daughter back – and Lizzy is returned in her place, since the original girl died of an asthma attack while tied up – Cliff grows obsessed with finding the men responsible for the terror and finds himself uncovering a ring of criminals that goes back much longer than this recent string of crimes.
Author Mark E. Shaver certainly knows his way around a mystery. Reading “A Critical Loss of Balance” is a bit like watching an episode of “Law and Order.” The scenes are snappy, the characters recognizable (if a few are underdeveloped or a tad cliche), and you just know it’s all going to get wrapped up shortly – though you have no idea how it might end. Several characters arouse your suspicion (Is the Doctor in with the kidnappers somehow? And who’s this Arthur dude and why was he conveniently right there as Lizzy was taken?) but there aren’t a lot of easy answers – other than a father desperately seeking vengeance. Even as Cliff is working towards discovering the truth, he feels the need to keep it from his wife and daughter so they can heal from their own trauma, and it nearly tears Cliff and Faye’s marriage apart. (Secrets’ll do that.)
In the end, things have a way of working out – which brings to mind the phrase “Things will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”
Mark E. Shaver has written two other mysteries, and if mystery is your bag I’d check them out. “A Critical Loss of Balance” is a fast-paced, snappy, interesting read.