There are certain books I only buy when rushing to catch a plane. They're usually mystery/suspense thrillers featuring a persecuted main character, a sympathetic authority figure who befriends the protagonist when no one else will, a bad guy, and some ''I didn't see that coming'' twist. I'm not the only one who calls these ''airport books'' -- apparently ''plane read'' has joined ''beach read'' in the literary genre. They're fun, they're a great way to pass the time, and they're often left in the seat pocket when I deplane.
The problem with these books is I usually can't distinguish one from the next after I'm finished, which means more than once I've bought a book I read on a previous flight. Fortunately, while Chris Beakey's first novel, Double Abduction (), may fit perfectly into this genre, there are enough inventive plot points and unique choices to make it a worthy stand-out.
As the name implies, Double Abduction is about the second child kidnapping to befall a family. It also means there's about twice as much going on. Michael Bennett has one primary goal in life -- nurture his nephew, Justin, and give him as much love and attention as he can. Michael lives with Justin and his sister, who still struggles with the kidnapping and death of her first son years before. Tensions between the two can be high, as Michael was watching the child when he disappeared. Though initially a suspect, attention eventually focused on his sister's boyfriend. However, when Justin disappears while in Michael's care, suspicions return in spades.
Adding to the judgments against Michael is the fact that he's gay. All of the usual stereotypes are raised because of Michael's sexuality: he likes to work with children and teach, so concerns of pedophilia are raised, Michael works in a bar, so maybe he attracted the wrong kind of attention there, and so on. Fortunately, a married pair of D.C. police officers believe Michael and are some of his only allies on the inside, working to clear his name.
On the bad guy side, the characters abound. Chapter one features the abductor, plotting the kidnapping of Justin. Chapter two features a homicidal maniac, complete with a gay trick that turns into a gory bloodbath. Eventually a hired killer, former felon and potentially crooked cop are in the mix and it's evident that none of them are the actual ''abductor.''
Clearly the uber-baddie is going to be someone unsuspected at first, but the final twist is just enough of a twist that it's hard to see coming. Once revealed, it's evident that the hints were there and Beakey does a good job at creating an ending that doesn't defy the clues he methodically laid out.
Beakey plays a constant game of two steps forward, one step back. Each section opens far in advance of the last one, requiring a flashback to bring readers up to speed. While this is certainly an effective and common devise used to save a character in peril (for example, the police show up in the nick of time and then have to explain how they got there), when overused it's simply jarring.
Similarly, Beakey teases with information that all the characters know, but he withholds from his readers. By the time we learn what's in the mysterious box in the attic, everyone else has known for 100 pages. At that point it's no longer a suspenseful plot device and, out of spite, I don't even want to know (okay, yes I do).
As a former D.C.-resident, Beakey is able to incorporate the city in the book in a fun and effective way. Whether sitting in Dupont Circle or on a plane, Double Abduction is a worthy way to pass the time. If you do happen to read it on a plane and finish before the wheels touch down, don't leave it in the seat pocket. Pass it along to your neighbor for them to enjoy. It deserves to be shared.