Somebody's Daughter
David Bell
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Buy *Somebody's Daughter* by David Bellonline

Somebody's Daughter
David Bell
432 pages
July 2018
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Michael Frazier and his wife, Angela, are largely happy, though they would like more time away and less work. They've been struggling to have a child, which is adding pressure to their marriage. For Michael, sex has become a chore, a duty to be performed with the specific goal of producing a baby. Shepherding the tragic elements of Shakespeare, Bell sets his plot in motion when Michael's ex-wife impulsively arrives on Michael's doorstep pleading with him to help her find Felicity, her missing teenage daughter.

Michael has told Angela that Erica was a mistake, that it was a starter marriage, an attempt to "feel like grown-ups when they really weren't:" There was just too much drama, and not enough stability and reliability." Chain-smoking Erica is convinced that someone has kidnapped Felicity. Erica tends toward exaggeration, prone to turn the smallest misunderstanding into "the biggest blowup." Michael tells her to call the police--"they can figure it out." Then Erica confides that Felicity is Michael's daughter. In an effort to manipulate her ex-husband, Erica even invokes Robyn, Michael's dead sister. Against his better judgement, Michael decides to accompany Erica, ignoring Angela's insistence that he shouldn't get involved. There's a guy Erica wants to talk to, someone who might know where the girl is.

As the search gets underway, Erin Griffin and Jim Twitchell, the lead detectives from Davenport County sheriff's office, arrive at Michael's home. Michael's name has "come up," though neither detective seems not to know what to say in the face of Angela's discomfort as she thinks back over the years and the months when things in her marriage haven't always been "roses and sunshine." At first Griffin and Twitchell think it is Erica who has crossed a line and harmed the girl, though the authorities have checked Erica out; there's no record and no violent history. In chapters that turn with the speed of a bullet train, Bell's novel lays bare the fragility of lives hijacked by Michel's family's past and the pain of parents faced with the burden of losing a child.

As dark, misty night turns into a heat-filled morning, other characters enter the story, each with an agenda of their own: Erica's elderly neighbor, Helen Winningham, who recalls a lot of details about her; Tiffany Flowers, whose baby Stacey was stolen; Jake Little, who wanted so much to be part of Felicity's life--Felicity might very well be his in every sense. Wayne Tolliver talked with Felicity only two days ago and acted upset, like he was unhappy with Erica. As Felicity's disappearance takes on an equilibrium all of its own, the evolution of Robyn's terrible death brings Michael nearer to the riddle over the whereabouts of the daughter he never knew he had. Griffin proves a prodigy detective as she attempts to assemble facts suggesting a more sinister scenario than first imagined.

Will Erica's life forever be defined by the loss of Felicity? Will Michael's, by the loss of Robyn? Griffin has to engage with Michael in order to find a teenager full of anguish and broken dreams. Though the novel peters out in the final half, it is a serviceable thriller in which author Bell makes us fully understand how our impulses touch not only our own lives but also those who surround us.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Michael Leonard, 2018

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