Scare Me by Richard Parker is a thriller that begins in a virtual Internet environment and leads to a very real threat to a businessman’s family (available April 30, 2013).
Scare Me is a stand-alone thriller by Richard Parker, whose previous book, Stop Me, also featured kidnap victims, ticking clocks, and technology. Another thing Scare Me has a lot of are fluids: pools of blood, a warehouse of chicken excrement, sweat, vomit, sex... And the pools and pores and poultry are colliding in a messy and terrifying way for William Frost and his wife, Carla, who just celebrated their nineteenth anniversary and expect to start the next year with the return of their pregnant daughter, Libby, and her boyfriend Luke, from vacation abroad.
Instead, Will wakes up to a nightmare on the Internet that sends him racing around the globe in an effort to save Libby before time runs out.
He clicked on it and the screen changed to a street, a row of houses extending across the bottom portion of the image. Above it, against a cobalt blue sky, was a message.
IF YOU LIFT THE PHONE TO THE POLICE—THEY’RE DEAD
IF YOU TELL ANYONE ELSE—THEY’RE DEAD
MR FROST MUST TAKE FIRST AVAILABLE FLIGHT TO ORLANDO INTERNATIONAL
TAKE LAPTOP AND AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS VIA THIS SITE.
IF YOU DON’T—THEY’RE DEAD
The journey ends at the metaphorical street on which Will’s trip is constructed, where the characters must confront not just their own mortality, but what it means to be family. What it means to be a father, a mother, a daughter. What it means to be a spouse. And what it means to carry on when what you thought you knew is cast in a new light. When what you thought you’d been building falls apart.
There’s a great deal of juxtaposition and irony in this book. The murders are being predicted and displayed online but there’s little fear anyone will stumble across them, worry, or report them. In an era in which people put their whole lives online, there’s an unspoken rule that what’s posted on the Internet may just be hoax or fiction; it’s hard to know what’s real. At the same time, it’s the private pieces of life, unposted and unshared, that hold the secrets, the key, to the semi-public executions.
Even within the Frost family, Will’s desperation to be a father when he and Carla adopt Libby, an attempt to prove to himself that he can work hard without being as aloof and uncaring as his parents had appeared, seems a cruel twist of fate by the end. His rejection of Libby’s boyfriend, his overprotection of her become contrasted against an unfathomable lack.
Will waggled himself upright and, as he watched the herding of children back and forth to the bathroom, recalled the last time he, Carla and Libby had been on a plane. Libby had been sixteen and had reluctantly accompanied them on their final family trip. Capri had been a regular destination for them since she’d been able to walk. It was the first time Will realised he’d lost touch with her.
She’d spent the whole time texting and having muted phone conversations with her friends about why she didn’t want to be there. It had been like a stranger had supplanted his daughter who used to love the food and culture and wandering around the bay of the Marina Piccola.
Will had lost his patience. Her behaviour seemed to negate all the years of happiness they’d had there before. He knew there were always chapters to close as a father. Like the time he’d stored all her redundant toys in the empty attic room. Boxed and sealed away, there had been something final about stowing the props of her innocence. But on that holiday he felt as if he’d suddenly become redundant. On the third day, he’d wished she’d stayed home.
Carla had handled their daughter’s doleful presence with resigned ease. But it was more than just a passively dismissing phase. She’d accepted her moodiness and peer-pressured behaviour because she effortlessly saw past it to the daughter who still needed love and protection.
The human connection family—constructed or biological—provides a sharp contrast with the technological connections that bind the characters, test the characters, and threaten to break the characters if the inevitable linkage failures occur. Even peripheral characters find their definitions of family strengthened or altered by the book’s end.
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Neliza Drew is a tofu-eating teacher and erratic reader with a soft spot for crime fiction. She lives in the heat and humidity of southern Florida with three cats and her adorable hubby. She listens to way too much music, writes often, and spends too much time on Twitter (@nelizadrew).
Read all posts by Neliza Drew on Criminal Element.