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The "Stockholm syndrome" is a form of traumatic bonding where strong emotional ties develop after one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other over a long period. Chelsea Cain has written a sensitive but action packed story centreing on this syndrome about an abducted child subject to imprisonment and sexual abuse who formed a "loving" relationship during a traumatic 5 years with her paedophilic captors. Ten years later as an adult she sets out to avenge her captors and those who helped them and prevent other children meeting the same fate.
Kit Lannigan was abducted by Mel Riley and his wife Beth when she was six, imprisoned for months in cellars in total darkness and eventually forced to feature in Mel's child pornograpy movies, which are a big and profitable hit when circulated throughout black parts of the internet. Five years later she calls them Daddy and Mummy, her only remembered name is Beth, and she is trained to hide whenever a stranger calls. One day that happens and she automatically rushes to "nuke" all of the offending pornography on Mel's computer before she is "rescued" by the FBI.
Ten years later, at 21, she has changed her name to Kick in recognition of the martial arts skills she had built up to protect her fragile identity. Her survival skills include becoming a crack marksman and she still has lockpicking, and bomb making skills taught to her by Mel. She has three pre-occupations, to seek out and help child abduction cases, to protect her vulnerable but loving brother, and look after her blind and old dog Monster who is her only real connection to her early life. Her connection to her real mother is fraught because of her mother's pre-occupation with promoting the popular notoriety of her daughter's case which Kit is trying so hard to forget.
When two local children go missing in a couple of weeks Kit is visited by enigmatic John Bishop who offers to help her to find the children. We learn very little about Bishop, except that he used to deal in arms, has very wealthy connections and great influence with the FBI. While Kit fights his influence she is eventually persuaded to help him. But will she help him when Bishop wants her to visit Mel in prison hospital where he is dying of renal failure.
Chelsea Cain has written a high-octane, fast paced and frequently very emotional thriller. While it is not for the faint hearted the action is sensitive and not as over-the-top as many recent thrillers by other authors. Kit is not a Lizbeth Salander substitute (try Taylor Stevens kick ass heroine Vanessa "Michael" Munroe if you are looking for that). Cain has delivered a sensitive, scarred personality who is motivated to survive and prevent other children suffering the nightmare environment that changed her life.
This is a very good thriller about a dark subject. It is the first book by Chelsea Cain that I have read and it won't be the last. My only reservation is that I finished the book with lots of unanswered questions about the background, motivation and character of John Bishop. Cain leaves us with seeds to a Kit Lannigan sequel sometime soon which will no doubt answer some of these questions.
My thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing an Advanced Reading Copy of this novel.