April 27, 2004

Keeping Watch, by Laurie R. King

Keeping Watch is a stand-alone book, but the major character is one of the minor characters in another of her books, Folly.

It has an interesting premise. Allen Carmichael rescues children from hopeless situations. To be more exact, he kidnaps them for an organization that places them in safe homes when either their parents or social services refuse or can't keep them from abusive situations. Often he helps both a mother and the children escape. Rarely, is it just the child. And it's all completely illegal also making his life just a little abnormal.

This time his organization, headed by a Feminist With An Attitude, has been contacted by a child who claims his father is going to kill him. They call in Allen to watch the house and the child to substantiate the claim. He has all sorts of interesting skills with technology and is able to, indeed, verify that the child is in danger and that the father is extremely abusive. He takes the child, with the kid's consent, and places him in a family chosen by his organization in the wilds of Montana. And then he decides to quit. Living below the radar is too stressful, too dangerous and he's got a love interest in his life. Except the kid's father disappears under suspicious circumstances and Allen begins to wonder if the kid set them all up, taking out his father after he was safely away.

The other half of the book, the background to all this, is Allen's experiences in Vietnam. He has lived for years with post traumatic stress disorder and the residue of killing children in Nam. The risk of the rescue effort is his therapy and expiation for the past.

The whole book is fascinating. There really is an organization like the one described in it. In fact, King references it in the novel. Her descriptions of people's mental states are spot on without being over the top. The waffling that Allen goes thru, not knowing if the kid is a psycho or a victim is so believable. And it has a realistic ending. I'm thinking about rereading again soon just because I enjoyed it so much.

Posted by Deb English at April 27, 2004 07:43 PM