Wow. Talk about suspense. Irene Hannon's Trapped is not a mystery-suspense, where some of the thrill is watered down in distracting the reader with red herrings until the final coup reveals the villain; this is a hard core, Alfred Hitchcock-style thriller, where we are privy to everything that is going on - from the villain's thoughts to the victim's to the detective's to that of the girl being used by the villain - watching seemingly innocent actions twist into something both terrible and terrifying.
Hannon's tale begins with the disappearance of Laura Griffith's sixteen-year-old half-sister, Darcy, who, fed up with rules, takes off into a winter storm leaving behind only a short note to say that she has gone. Not getting the response she wants from the local police, Laura turns to Phoenix Inc, a private investigative agency run by three men formerly in law-enforcement, including James Devlin, ex-ATF agent. Dev is quite taken with Laura, and, knowing how quickly teens on the street end up in prostitution and drugs, he throws himself into the investigation, hoping the multi-day storm is enough to keep Darcy from escaping St. Louis, at which point her chances of being found would grow notably slimmer. However, as the days stretch on, the trail grows colder, and their suspicions grow stronger that something sinister has happened to her.
While the description of the book leads one to believe that Dev and Laura are the focus of the novel, it is actually through Darcy's and the villain's point of view that we see most of the suspense. Without them, it would be a long, boring search (and just another mystery-suspense cross) before the intense finale. Hannon, however, weaves the suspense surrounding Darcy with the romance and tough PI work of Dev and Laura to form a well balanced novel. It starts out ominous and builds steadily from there, not remotely suffering from the middle-of-the-book-slump that so often plagues the genre.
Like Hitchcock's tradition of interspersing humor to cut the tension periodically and thus intensify the suspense without overdosing the audience, Hannon includes plenty of ribbing and good natured banter between employees of the Phoenix Inc, being a company formed by good friends. The developing romance, too, provides relief and a necessary humanity to the novel so that we care what happens to Dev and Laura (in addition to Darcy, with whom our sympathies instinctively lie, being the victim); we see their motivations, their regrets, their uncertainties, and we watch them break down walls that they had erected over the years. In Darcy we see the most change: from a defiant youth to a broken, frightened girl, crying out to God, to an imperfect but loving sister who no longer takes life for granted.
While I have enjoyed all of Hannon's books, this one has surpassed them all, reaching even beyond what I expected from Hannon's expert hand at the genre. While the romance may happen incredibly quickly and the Christian message be not as strong as in other novels, this is a clean, supreme example of what a suspense should be. 5 out of 5 stars!
Thank you Revell and Netgalley for providing me a free e-copy of this novel for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive.