Steal Away
Katharine Clark
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Get Katharine Clark's *Steal Away* delivered to your door! Steal Away
Katharine Clark
368 pages
November 1999
rated 2 of 5 possible stars

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There's something wrong with a world that spends this much money and attention on a finished novel that should have made at least one more trip through the editorial wringer. Print ads in Vanity Fair and all Conde Nast women's magazines? A Book-of-the-Month Club selection? Steal Away is not worthy. Katharine Clark, president of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, has written a story with an interesting premise and a strong plot. Almost everything else about the book, unfortunately, could use some work.

Curled Up With a Good BookRachel Stark, a scatterbrained "creative" type, illustrates children's books for a living. Her anal-retentive husband, Stephen, works long hours as an attorney. The only thing they seem to have in common at all anymore is their shared love for their serious little nine-year-old son, David. Their already strained marriage is stressed to the breaking point when the unthinkable happens: David is abducted in broad daylight as he rides his new bike home from school.

Into this situation come the other dramatis personae, and with them a host of unappealing character traits. The police officer in charge of David's case is Detective Gallagher, a cold and unfriendly man whose suspicion of Rachel and Stephen is matched in tastelessness by his inability to keep his eyes off Rachel's chest. Rachel's sister Miranda, recently divorced and staying with the Stark's until she can find a place of her own, is a tofu-loving, irresponsible flirt who can't keep her hands out of her brother-in-law's pants. And John Robinson, head of the Missing Child Foundation, paints himself as a selfless victim devoted to recovering missing children when his real agenda is nothing more than self-aggrandizement.

As days drag into weeks with no progress made in finding her son, Rachel relies more and more on fleeting telepathic glimpses to assure herself that David is alive. She becomes convinced that David's biological father, an anonymous sperm donor who she has learned is dying, is responsible for her son's disappearance. Rachel undertakes a quest to learn that man's identity, and to find him before John Robinson's publicity flood imperils David's life. Shocking betrayals and life-shattering revelations will change Rachel's life forever as she scrambles along a desperate path at whose end she will find her son, dead or alive.

Sounds pretty good, rather titillating even. The problems lie in Steal Away's descriptive langage and characterization. The metaphors are mostly either trite, strained or clumsy. Stephen is really far too slimy a guy for Rachel's forgiveness of him in the end to be what the reader really wants. Rachel herself, an innocent, sensitive artiste, comes across more as an ineffectual whiner who enables those closest to her to abuse and dismiss her. The protagonist here is just too hard to sympathize with, and she's not meant to be an anti-hero by any clues the rest of the story supplies. Steal Away could have used another session under the editorial knife before hitting the presses.

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