Say Nothing
Brad Parks
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Say Nothing
Brad Parks
448 pages
March 2017
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Drawing from current events and a world made more accessible through technology and bad intentions, Parks creates a harrowing scenario that might happen to anyone--a universal fear come true for Scott Sampson, a Federal Judge in Norfolk, the Eastern Division of Virginia. Happily married with six-year-old twins, Sam and Emma, Scott returns home after changing plans for taking the kids swimming, anticipating the return of his wife, Alison. When Alison comes in, she denies sending Scott a text about the changed plans. Dumbfounded, they realize Alison hadnít sent a text to change plans. The twins have been kidnapped. Thereís barely time to absorb the shock when a threatening call breaks the silence, confirming their worst fear and instructing them to wait for further instruction. Above all, the disguised voice reminds the terrified parents to say nothing to authorities.

Scottís first instinct as a judge is to alert authorities to report the kidnapping, but Alison is quick to demand that they follow directions. As difficult and unnatural as it is, they both agree to hang on until the next day, when Sampson will be contacted at the courthouse. Barely speaking, husband and wife cope as best they can, clinging to the fragile hope that, if they just follow instructions, they will have their children back again. Scott sleeps little, waiting for the dawn and the promised opportunity to retrieve his beloved children, determined to do whatever is demanded, no matter the cost. He imagines the kidnapping is about the verdict in a case but doesnít care, too desperate to think clearly. Told their every movement will be monitored, Scott drives to the courthouse, leaving Alison at home, each trapped in an agony of waiting.

Essentially a mild-mannered officer of the court, Sampson occasionally handles important cases--many drug-related, but none significant enough to inspire such an elaborate plan. Content to compartmentalize his life between career and home, Scott has taken the open space afforded by their tidewater home in Gloucesterís Middle Peninsula for granted, with its private schools and generous acreage. Now the space seems too open, too easily monitored, too dangerous. Utterly helpless in the face of this challenge, the judge swallows his pride and his instincts, doing exactly what he is told--above all, saying nothing. This masquerade is perhaps the most difficult: the torture of acting normal, stoically sitting through court proceedings while waiting for a call.

The Federal courthouse his stage, Sampson is the central player, literally trapped by his inability to alter circumstances. As agreed, the couple has said nothing, cooperating with every every demand. Shock and acquiescence turn to rage as the ordeal drags on without resolution, provoking an almost unbearable tension and the drama evolves. Parks tosses in a number of elaborate surprises, not the least of which is the couplesí strength and courage when facing their adversary. Trapped in an impossible conundrum, with no choice but to follow orders, every decision is fraught with obstacles, any provocation an excuse to forfeit a childís life. Sampson treads a narrow line between breaking the law and recovering his children, the results as stunning as the kidnapping, a simple man faced with an extraordinary plight that will certainly change his life.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2017

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