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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
In her exciting novel The Edge of Fear, author Maura Beth Brennan creates an intense and harrowing tale of child abduction and filial love. In a conversation with an investigator, Hattie Matheson, the protagonist, sums up the situation by telling an investigator that her ex-husband kidnapped her daughter. Hattie is remarried; the ex is not the child’s father; the police are looking for them. Much of the fast-moving plot is to set up in that quick summary. We meet Hattie who has recovered from past trauma and is living with Eli, her present spouse, their three-year-old daughter Lilly, their rich, elderly sponsor Agnes, and their hundred-pound bloodhound Max, as they get along happily on the coast of Maine. Then we meet Frank, Hattie’s ex and the villain of the piece. Brennan knows how to create a villain. And how! He’s a street thug and hustler, a wife abuser who holds a grudge against Hattie and sees getting even as a way to cash in on a big score in the bargain. He hatches a devious plot that involves new identities, disguises, deception, kidnapping and camping in the New Jersey pinelands.
In Maura Beth Brennan’s flawless prose, the story unfolds as smoothly as a brisk summer breeze. She’s also a master at characterization; all the players, even Max the dog, are thoroughly drawn. Then, too, she knows how to set a scene, especially those of domesticity and friendship. I appreciated her innovative structure, sectioning out Hattie’s and Frank’s points of view. Hattie tells her story in the first person (I), but the POV switches to the third person (he) for Frank. Thus, we have what I refer to as the “train wreck approach.” The reader sits above watching the two plots soon to collide. We know more than the characters do, so we see, and fear, what is about to happen. For instance, when Hattie spots a breakage in her garden fence, we know who put it there though she does not. When little Lilly’s disappearance goes unsolved, Hattie and her amusing friend Celine hop into an RV and take off to find the child. Somehow, they end up at a Walmart near Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. “Girlfriends—they’re the best,” Hattie says. Grab this book. You won’t put it down until the final page.