Everyone has their limits. But limits exist to be tested, yes?
Normally I draw the line at fiction that contains child abuse as a plot point. There’s quite enough of that in real life, thank you. And while it means I miss out on some mysteries and thrillers, it also means I don’t have horrible nightmares, either.
The first chapter of One Kick is, hands down, the best story-starter I’ve read in a long time. When the FBI swoops in to capture a long-hunted suspect, they don’t expect to find one of his victims there for rescue. But there she is, Kick Lannigan, whose videos are among the most popular with internet predators. Confused beyond belief, and firmly in the grip of Stockholm Syndrome, Kick makes a decision that she’ll eventually regret, one that will lead her to a life of vigilante crime-fighting, in the hopes of atoning for her own guilt. My jaw practically fell to the floor as the scene unspooled, and I realized what was going to happen (Ever yell at a character? This is definitely one of those thrillers).
Flash forward to Kick’s wobbly adult life, with only her dog, Monster, and a fellow abuse survivor, James, for company (her family ties are…complicated). She’s a lean, mean, pervert-busting machine, armed to the teeth and maxed out with physical combat skills to boot. Still, when a mysterious man named Bishop shows up on her doorstep and asks for her help finding yet another missing child, Kick is understandably wary. A man of few words, with his own painful past to protect, Bishop gains Kick’s begrudging respect (trust is a bit much to ask), and the unlikely team springs into action. Given, however, that it’s also the tenth anniversary of her own rescue, it’s questionable whether Kick can hold it together, especially when the past and the present smash together in an ugly tangle of revelations.
Characterization is definitely the novel’s chief selling point. I’ve never run across a protagonist quite like Kick. She’s flawed, obviously, but what’s really compelling is that she’s flawed despite her best efforts to become whole. She’s tried therapy, meditation, kava-kava, positive mantras, emancipation from her over-controlling mother (who exploits her “victim mom” status in a way that made me want to slap her silly), and a whole host of other healing and coping techniques. She’s also taken lessons in just about every confidence-boosting, self-protective art under the sun (Kick is awfully fond of her Glock)..and yet, she’s still just barely hanging on by a thread. As you barrel through her adventures, you want her to win so badly, to get some measure of peace, respite, justice.
Instead, she gets Bishop…which might be almost the next best thing, given that they have an awful lot in common (with the exception of Bishop’s dislike of firearms). Not in that “here comes the big strong man to make it all better” kind of way. More like the “here’s somebody who knows what it’s like to hurt” kind of way. They say there’s somebody out there for everybody; is it possible Bishop is the one for Kick? Or is he just using her the way so many other people in her life already have?
I suppose we’ll have to wait until the next book in the series to find out. Yes, this is the first of a projected series, which puts me in the tooth-gnashing position of looking for something else as exciting to read while I wait. Luckily, Cain’s Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell series is hanging around the library system just begging for some comparison/contrast. And Confessions of a Teen Sleuth looks pretty amusing, to boot.
Where do your limits lie, constant readers? Is there any kind of book or subject material you just cannot even? Or are you fearless in your pursuit of fiction?
with apologies to James Bond and Duran Duran