"Say Nothing" (Dutton), by Brad Parks
Former newsman Brad Parks has enjoyed a successful run with a series of entertaining, well-crafted crime novels whose protagonist is a sharp-witted reporter at a Newark, New Jersey, daily that's in the midst of the same death throes that grip much of the newspaper industry.
In "Say Nothing," his latest and most ambitious thriller, Parks has upped his game by creating a new hero who wields a gavel instead of a notepad. Scott Sampson is a respected federal judge in Virginia whose charmed life suddenly becomes a living hell when his 6-year-old twins are abducted while waiting to be picked up from school.
It's a tale that grips the reader from the get-go and doesn't let up until the final twist in a story that's filled with surprises.
Faced with chilling threats about the fate of his children, Sampson decides to cooperate with the kidnappers rather than report the crime and mobilize what would surely be an intensive effort by law enforcement to combat a potentially deadly plot targeted against a federal judge.
But it is only after he follows instructions to set free a drug dealer who should have been handed a stiff sentence that Sampson finds out that his kids were being held hostage to a far bigger case — one that stands to determine the fate of a breakthrough cholesterol drug with the potential to generate billions of dollars in profits for its developer.
The judge's struggle to safeguard his children strains and unravels his relationship with his wife as suspicions about her possible role in the plot take root. A private detective hired by Sampson to look into his concerns ends up a victim, and the judge himself is forced to fend off attempts to remove him from the bench.
Sampson's dilemma appears hopeless before Parks deftly ties up the loose ends and provides the reader with a satisfying conclusion. But the author's fans won't find any of the delightful humor that permeated his six previous thrillers. There's little to laugh about in this tense drama that plays out both in and out of the courtroom.