There's a lot I liked about this book. It opens with the Courtland family on vacation in Colorado, celebrating some togetherness before oldest child Caitlin leaves for college. One morning Caitlin, a runner who's won a track scholarship to college, and her younger brother Sean go out, she to run and he to bike. But only Sean returns--Caitlin is kidnapped.
That's a lot of tension right there, and author Johnston does a good job exploring the way the family handles this nightmare. He breezes over the early days and takes us into the grueling months, then years, after Caitlin's disappearance. The parents' marriage, already rocky, falls apart. The mother returns to her home in Wisconsin and breaks down. The father remains in Colorado, working for an old rancher, and trying to keep the case alive.
The writing is strong, the characters mostly well developed. But there were some authorial choices that annoyed me. The mother is ignored for big chunks of the book, with most of the story taking place in Colorado with the father and son. How the son is treated by both parents seemed questionable. And the strength of the writing itself was marred by some stylistic choices. Even though we know Caitlin and Sean's names, the author repeatedly refers to them as "the boy" and "the girl," which after a while seemed cloying.
But the biggest stylistic issue I had with the book was the use of italics. Initially there were scenes within chapters that were in italics to signal a flashback. But eventually, the italics were used only with one character, and entire chapters are in italics. I'm thinking that was supposed to set that character apart from the others, but really, the writing was strong enough to do that on its own, and the italics became a distraction. Not to mention annoying to middle-aged eyes.
I'll look for the next book from this author, but I'll go into it cautiously.