Apr 8 2014 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline is a family-driven, suspense filled story that asks the question how far would you go to keep your loved ones safe (available April 8, 2014).

Ryan, don’t tell Mom. Never, ever.

I…never ever would. Are you…insane?

I mean it. No matter what. You know what she’d do. She’d have to.

I swear…I won’t tell Mom…I won’t tell anybody.

Jake Buckman wants nothing more than to reconnect with his sixteen year old son Ryan before he finishes high school and goes off to college. Jake has been absent in his life for the last few years while he got his new financial planning business off the ground, a by-product of being laid off and struggling to find a new job. His marriage to Pam and relationship with Ryan has suffered. Marriage counseling helped, but no amount of reaching out to his son has worked.

One evening Pam urges Jake to pick Ryan up from the movies instead of her. Jake is both happy and nervous to have some alone time with his son. On the way home from the theatre, Jake has a lapse in judgment and lets Ryan drive on a seemingly deserted road, and their lives are changed forever after a child dies at their hands. Jake makes a split-second decision in order to save his son and Ryan's future. The estranged father and son take a vow of silence, and this forces the pair to lie and deceive the ones they love.

If you’re a parent like myself, this book will make you ask yourself how far would I go to protect my child? Would you do anything? Lie, cheat, steal, kill? Once you make that first decision, take that first step, there may be no turning back. Lisa Scottoline weaves such a good tale that you can’t help but get drawn in. What Jake did would be considered morally abhorrent to most, but as a parent, you may understand what was going through his mind and what was driving him to protect his son.

The guilt is eating away at both Jake and Ryan and just when Jake thinks it cannot get worse, a man calling himself Lewis Deaner shows up at his office with photos and an intimate knowledge of their deception.

“Yes, I know it all. I saw it. You threw yourself on the sword for your son, good for you, Dad.”

Jake struggled for self-control. The worst-case scenario had just gotten worse.

“What was it that Ryan had in his hand? You were about to call the cops, after all. I heard you yelling.”

Jake reeled. He had no idea how Deaner had seen or heard them. The apartment complex, the corporate center. Somewhere, somehow.

Lewis Deaner is demanding a lot of money at a time when Jake’s finances are about to come under scrutiny because of his wife’s impending nomination to a federal judgeship. They’re about to go through an FBI background check and financial audit and Jake can’t just transfer that kind of money without drawing attention to it. He’s trapped and doesn’t know what to do, but he knows he needs to hold things together for his family, for Ryan.

Jake found himself stopped at a red light, sitting at the wheel of the rental Toyota, without even remembering getting in. He came into the moment as if he’d been pulled into the present from his own subconscious, a black void that matched the darkness around him. He didn’t have his coat on but was still in his shirt and tie from work. He was stopped at an intersection, and there were no other cars on the street. The dashboard clock read 9:28 p.m. He’d been driving for two hours.

Jake decides to investigate Lewis Deaner. He learns the blackmailer’s true identity and discovers that Deaner had a less-than-noble reason to be on that deserted street the evening of the accident. Jake tries to figure out how this can help him get out of his mess. Can he avoid paying the money to Deaner? If not, where can he get the money without Pam or the FBI finding out?

Deaner turns up dead and Jake may have been the last person to talk to him. Two detectives visit his office and start asking questions. Then one of them shows up at Ryan’s basketball game and corner’s Jake. Ryan is skipping classes and talking about suicide. His mother and coaches are concerned for his well-being. Jake’s marriage and life are crumbling and he’s not sure he can hold on much longer.

The author puts a lot of thought into her characters so that the reader will be able to get to know them well. She gives them hopes, dreams, good qualities, and flaws. They could be anyone's next-door-neighbor or friend, and the reader invests time in them and their lives. You can feel Jake's fear and desperation and Ryan's anguish. We see the Buckman family on the brink of destruction and yet we root for them and want to see them pull through.

I don’t want to give the ending away, but there’s several twists in this novel that I think he readers will enjoy. The last third of the book went very fast. In Scottoline’s usual fashion, she leads you down one path only to have you abruptly change direction in mid-theory. She's a master at red herrings and really tries to keep you guessing until the end.  I think readers will enjoy her new stand-alone.

See more new releases at our Fresh Meat feature page.

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Kim M. Hammond is an avid mystery reader and aspiring writer who hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She also guest blogs at Mystery Playground.

Read all posts by Kim Hammond for Criminal Element.

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1 comment
Deborah Lacy
1. DeborahLacy
I am definitely putting this on my TBR pile. Thanks for a great post.
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