Once I heard the title, I knew Before He Finds Her (February 2015) would be a book I wanted to read. Unfamiliar with Michael Kardos’s work, I was impressed to learn of both his Pushcart Prize-winning debut novel, The Three-Day Affair, and critically-acclaimed short stories. Hoping to find a new favorite author, I eagerly started reading his second novel. I was not disappointed!
This exciting thriller is about a girl named Melanie Denison who has been hiding since 1991 in a remote area of West Virginia. Under the protection of the US Marshals, Melanie lives in secrecy with her aunt and uncle. Homeschooled and following strict restrictions to minimize her exposure to the outside world, Melanie, nearly 18 years old, has reason to be scared. Fifteen years ago, her father, Ramsey Miller, intended to kill his small family and has been eluding capture ever since his wife’s murder.
But Melanie is tired of being in hiding. She slowly begins to break the rules set out by her aunt and uncle—finding a boyfriend, having lunch with her peers, and joining her community college’s newspaper staff. When Melanie learns she is pregnant, she decides she wants a better life for herself and her child. Refusing to live in hiding anymore, Melanie returns to her hometown, Silver Bay, to find her father before he finds her.
Kardos did an excellent job capturing the child-like naivety of a girl who grew up in isolation. Using what she learned from reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, Melanie does what she can to track down those closest to her father and those closest to her mother’s murder investigation. I could feel her anxiety and her fears became my fears. Can she keep her secret? Will her father find her first?
Changing point of views and time periods, the story unravels slowly but surely. I really enjoyed how the author paralleled the two main story lines. First we hear from Melanie as she tries to find Ramsey, then we hear from Ramsey leading up to the night of his wife’s death. Midway through the novel, the author departs from these two main plot lines to explore Ramsey’s childhood and life leading up to when he met his wife. I found myself disinterested in this—not sure if it’s because I was eager to return to Melanie’s current predicament or if this part of Ramsey’s life story fell flat. Both I suppose contributed. I couldn’t wait to get to the third part which opens with Melanie at the hospital bedside of journalist Arthur Goodale—a man who believed there was more to the Ramsey story than both the news and investigators reported.
With twists and turns only a talented storyteller can achieve, Before He Finds Her will keep you up and guessing late into the night. I definitely recommend this novel to all adult readers, especially those who enjoy literary fiction, suspense, and thrillers. Kardos is most certainly an author to watch!
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