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Monday, April 23, 2012

The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn

The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (368 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Azalea

The phone rings. It's your daughter. She's been dead for four months.

So begins East Texas police dispatcher Ian Hunt's fight to get his daughter back. The call is cut off by the man who snatched her from her bedroom seven years ago, and a basic description of the kidnapper is all Ian has to go on. What follows is a bullet-strewn cross-country chase from Texas to California along Interstate 10- a wild ride in a 1965 Mustang that passes through the outlaw territory of No Country for Old Men and is shot through with moments of macabre violence that call to mind the novels of Thomas Harris.

911 dispatcher Ian Hunt receives a call from a fourteen-year-old girl–his daughter Maggie who’s been missing for seven years and declared dead. Before Ian can get more than a rudimentary description of his daughter’s kidnapper, the phone is snatched from the girl’s hand. Ian begins a hunt for his missing daughter that will cover not only the East Texas community where Ian lives, but also a mad chase along the Interstate 10 to California. Can he reach her in time?

Jahn’s theme is not new, but he gives life to an otherwise predictable plot by infusing life into his characters. Thrice divorced dispatcher, Ian Hunt has foibles aplenty, but he has a determination to find the only precious thing he has left in his empty life–his daughter Maggie. Henry, the villain, is a truly disgusting man, but Jahn provides a fascinating glimpse into the criminal mind that raises Henry from the stereotype. Even Henry’s dim-witted wife Bea is portrayed with a pathos that makes the reader both despise and pity her. Henry’s twisted loyalty to Bea and his hideous determination to give her what she lost are hard to stomach in this tale of a young girl who has lived as a captive practically under the noses of the local police. I was at first reminded of news stories where young women had been held captive. This is different, and Henry’s motives are not those of Elizabeth Smart’s or Jaycee Dugard’s kidnappers. Only the compliant wife lends any similarity to Maggie’s story.

Despite Maggie’s unusual strength of character which seems unbelievable given her confinement, Jahn’s fast-paced plot keeps the reader turning pages and suspending disbelief. I appreciated the viewpoints of several characters, however, I was put off by the present tense storytelling style. Also–and I do not take off for formatting since the version I read may be a NetGalley problem, not occurring in the printed book–I found point of view switches hard to follow without asterisks or other hiatus indicators.

Warning: there is macabre violence a plenty in this story of blood, bullets, twisted love and torture. Gripping, moving, well-crafted, but not for the faint of heart. Still, Jahn has crafted a terrific thriller that shows the criminal mind at work. Recommended.

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