Danbury takes pains to be sure that readers new to the Phoenix Martinsen series will understand X. Although human trafficking is the theme, and a young girl faces horrific danger throughout, no explicit abuse scenes occur. However, this traumatic topic always warrants a trigger alert. Still, humor abounds with villains’ bumbling capers, Curt’s inner dialogue as he teaches first graders, and even some playful puns: “With apologies to the proverb’s originators, it could be said that Missouri loves company.” This lightness balances Phoenix’s anguish as she searches for her child. Danbury keeps the pages turning and readers on their toes by frequently hopping from one character’s point of view to another, but well-labeled, crisply written chapters clarify where and when the action takes place.
Most villains are recognizable types: An overbearing, repulsive mother browbeats a cunning son while coddling his intellectually challenged brother, and child abusers twirl their metaphorical mustaches as they anticipate debauchery. What stands out, again, is Phoenix, whose undaunted mama-bear heroism and strong Christian faith are so persuasive that readers will expect Rose’s safe recovery. With Phoenix’s husband, father, and a former military chum as back-up, the narrative emphasizes the strength of family. Readers will cheer for this lovable group of rescuers.
Takeaway: A mother hunts for her abducted child in this family-driven page-turner.
Comparable Titles: Patricia Bradley, Jennifer McMahon’s Island of Lost Girls.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
"❌ by Jafe Danbury is a compelling exploration of a family’s strength and resolve in the face of their worst nightmare. As Christmas time approaches, a period known for its joyous gatherings and family unity, the Martinsens anticipate nothing short of heartwarming celebrations. However, their world is rocked when their six-year-old daughter, Rose, is abducted in a parking lot while shopping with her mother, Phoenix. The captors intend to transport her across state lines to a disturbing event. The shock and distress the Martinsens experience are palpable and gripping, triggering their unwavering determination to rescue their child.
Danbury crafts a rollercoaster of emotion throughout the novel, carefully weaving a narrative that fosters a deep connection between the readers and the characters. Scenes such as Rose spending cherished moments with her grandfather, Pop Pop, after a bout of illness or Curtis providing unwavering support for Phoenix, render the family dynamics both authentic and deeply affecting. The Martinsens’ family friend, Wayne, also plays a pivotal role in the quest to reclaim Rose, further solidifying the sense of camaraderie and unity within the story.
A notable strength of the narrative is the character development of Rose herself. Danbury smartly eschews the trope of an excessively innocent child, instead presenting Rose as a remarkably intelligent and perceptive young girl. Her portrayal adds a refreshing dimension to the story, making it even more captivating.
❌ stands out as an exceptionally well-paced narrative. Danbury manages to maintain a balance between sustaining suspense and providing detailed explanations of each plot point, resulting in a story that is engaging without overstaying its welcome. Every character is imbued with a distinctive personality that complements the overall plot, ensuring that readers remain engrossed throughout.
Danbury’s expertise in crafting a riveting tale shines through, making ❌ a book that’s difficult to put down. His flair for suspense keeps readers on the edge of their seats, continually urging them to turn the next page. For its engrossing plot, well-rounded characters, and gripping narrative, ❌ comes highly recommended as one of the most remarkable reads in recent memory." ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️