Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos

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Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Assumed to have been killed by her father, Melanie wants to end her life of hiding and fear of shadows by finding and confronting him. A tale of unravelling intrigue and gasp-inducing twists for those who prefer their thrillers to be at the less scary end of the spectrum.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: February 2015
Publisher: Head of Zeus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0802123190

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The newspaper reports at the time were unanimous: in September 1991 Ramsey Miller held a party for all his neighbours and then, when it ended, killed his wife Allie and toddler daughter Meg, then ran away, remaining a fugitive from justice. The newspapers were wrong. Meg isn't dead but has been kept hidden by her Uncle Wayne and Aunt Kendra, had her name changed to Melanie and has led a sheltered life. No photos, no internet, no friends after school, no holidays away from home. That's no way to live and now she approaches her 18th birthday, Melanie/Meg wants to end her half-life in order to live fully and yet to do that she must risk any form of life. She must find her father before he finds her.

American author Michael Kardos showed his hand as a thriller writer who eschews the norm when he wrote The Three Day Affair about a night to remember for all the wrong reasons for a lad driving his friends to the convenience store. We may therefore expect something a little off the wall from this, his second thriller, and our expectations are correct.

The synopsis reads very much like the routine teen-in-trouble story but don’t assume stereotypes. Melanie/Meg is actually in trouble (in more than one sense) but she's no dumb teen and this is no routine plot. As the youngster seeks out her father we aren't confronted by a scary nail-chewer of a tale. Once we stop wondering how she wouldn't have been found before this in today's society, we settle down to an intelligently plotted, well-paced web of intrigue that builds beautifully.

The first beauty of the book is that we in the present are told about the original case right at the beginning via a blog written by an elderly journalist who covered it all those years before – the wonderful Arthur Goodale. We then learn about both father and daughter; her current story alternates chapters with his past story leading up to that fatal night.

Melanie/Meg is driven by curiosity and desire to emerge from her constrained chrysalis. The fact she's managed to get pregnant away from her custodian Aunt and Uncle's stare is just a small measure of the ingenuity we will come to admire along with her maturity that becomes as much an asset as her teenage confidence that she's doing the right thing.

Our interest and absorption is sustained and fed by Melanie/Meg's search as she calls on all her investigative powers and the help of witty, urbane, mildly sarcastic Arthur. (Ok, I admit it – he is my favourite character in the book!) His assistance doesn't stop Melanie/Meg putting her foot in it from time to time though, with door slamming effectiveness.

Melanie/Meg's father? At this stage I'd love to tell you more about him but I'm worried that I'd give too much away. Oh yes, there is much to be given away! (He's not my friend Arthur Goodale though!)

When it comes to the final revelation, Michael teases us with a whopping clue a little while before we get there but nothing prepares us for that final denouement. In fact, the other great beauty of this is that Michael avoids a Hollywood ending, replacing it with something that feels a little more authentic. This is a thriller that delivers its shock and awe gently. In doing so it still packs a memorable punch which makes me anticipate Michael's next book with even greater interest than before.

(Thank you, Head of Zeus, for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you'd like to read more of Michael Kardos, please do try The Three Day Affair. If you prefer your thrillers with more gore and edge, we also highly recommend The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffery Deaver.

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