One Kick by Chelsea Cain is a departure from her Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell thrillers and Cain proves that she can create another powerfully character driven novel in One Kick.
“…Kick hesitated. She knew how this went.
But she couldn’t stop herself.
Kick opened the police scanner app on her phone, picked her backpack off the bathroom floor, and headed for the door, the loaded Glock still in her sweatshirt. Whenever they had traveled, Mel put her under a blanket on the floor of the backseat and switched the vehicle plates out for fake dealer ones. The dealer plates were harder to read, and produced little information, so patrol cops often didn’t bother running them.
It’s not like she thought she’d find the car. This was something that none of her shrinks ever seemed to understand. Kick knew exactly how futile it was. She knew she’d drive up and down the interstate until she was exhausted, and stay up half the night refreshing her browser, sorting through every detail, hunting for anything familiar. She knew that the kid was probably already dead and that when the police did find the body, it would feel like a part of Kick had died too.
That’s how this went.
How it always went.
Penance wasn’t supposed to be fun…”
Kick Lannigan, kidnapped at the age of six and forced into child pornography, became instantly famous and the face of child abduction. Five years later, she is rescued by the FBI in a raid that had nothing got do with her abduction. But in one moment, Kick now called Beth, does something on the orders of her abductor/father that seals the fate of thousands of other lost children.
Since then, she has searched for missing children, training herself physically and emotionally but with little success. Estranged from her mother who keeps Kick alive in American culture through writing books and giving interviews, has made a small fortune on the abduction of her daughter. Kick lives with her dog Monster and her friend James, another child abducted and abused.
Until another child is taken and wealthy but mysterious John Bishop finds her and offers her a proposition. With his money and his connections, together, they search for the missing children and the pedophiles who have taken them. Their goal, to bring down the network that uses these children for sex and pornography. A chance for Kick, to undo the moment when she did so much harm to those who were victimized just like her.
Chelsea Cain is a terrific writer. If you have not read any of her Gretchen Lowell novels you are really missing something. If Hannibal Lector was a statuesque gorgeous blonde model, he still wouldn’t be half of what Gretchen Lowell is. Archie Sheridan as head of the task force responsible for catching Gretchen is an equally compelling character. Lovesick and self destructive he hunts Gretchen yet never is able to hold her for long. I bring up these characters to give you an idea how well Chelsea Cain creates her characters. She does more than breathe life into them. She empowers them with an added dimension that cannot be held by the written page. They are very real and very much flawed as they are heroic.
She has done it again with Kick Lannigan. Molested and trafficked as a child, Kick’s road to recovery and redemption is both successful and a horrible failure. She is still devoted to the man who took her and used her. The only father she can remember. Her mother, who has turned her abduction into her own fifthteen minutes of fame is even more disturbing than the rapists and pornographers who did her so much damage. Incredibly powerful characters.
Which brings me to the one complaint I have about this book. With such real characters how do we relate to John Bishop? An enigmatic, rich arms dealer who in James Bondesque manner hunts down pedophiles. Placed next to the rest of the characters in the book, Bishop seems unreal and cartoonist. Perhaps in future novels he will be more grounded but here, in the first Kick novel, he seems more fantasy than reality and that has the power to draw you out of the novel. Thankfully the rest of the characters are written expertly enough to make up for it.
The story for One Kick is good, not great, the mystery is good, not great, but Kick Lannigan is awesome. This first novel is more it seems as an introduction of Kick Lannigan than a stand alone tale of its own. Its the pilot episode and it will only get better.
Another good read from Chelsea Cain!