Saturday, July 16, 2016

Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry

PictureTroy Chance impulsively decides to jump off a moving ferry to rescue what she believes was a small child thrown overboard from a ferry passing in the opposite direction.  Not stopping to rationally weigh her options or even to yell for help and assistance, Troy finds herself (not a strong swimmer) struggling to keep the spot in the water she thinks is the spot the child went under in her sights, swimming as fast as she can as the two boats continue their paths in opposite directions.  Miraculously she does rescue the boy and gets both of them safely to shore.  Seemingly in shock, the small frail boy does not speak and Troy again makes a decision based on heart, not head, as she wraps the boy in her own gym clothes retrieved from her car in the harbor parking lot and drives for home.  When it is apparent that police are not looking for him, nor are there any frantic parents making public requests to find a missing child, Troy tells herself that she does not want the boy to spend the night in foster care, so she tucks the frail child into bed, believing she will go to the authorities in the morning.  But when the boy speaks (in French) saying that he and his mother had been kidnapped months earlier and that he believes his mother is now dead, Troy knows that the sight of the boy being thrown overboard was not a mistake.  Thinking that even the father would be a suspect, Troy sets off to determine the boy's identity, locate the father, and then judge for herself whether she should return the child.

Sara J. Henry has created a lovable, fresh character in Troy Chance.  Single, but in a relationship that is stalled, Troy is comfortable in her own skin.  That said, she still has some esteem issues.  She knows she is not the weekly manicure, latest fashion, perfect make up type.  And don't ever think that she will put on a pair of those shoes with pointy toes and 4 inch heels -- it isn't happening. Once a reporter for the Lake Placid paper, Troy now free lances writing sports articles, promotions, and such, work she can do from anywhere as long as she has access to a computer and a memory stick.  She's purchased a large rambling house which she shares with several boarders, currently all male.  While that situation may raise eyebrows, Troy is perfectly satisfied with the arrangement, saying that female roommates are more demanding, always expecting friendships to develop, when she just really wants to be left alone.

While this book probably is considered a mystery or suspense, it is so much more, mostly because Troy is a much more developed character than you usually find in this genre.  I don't know if that depth of character will carry into the second Troy Chance novel A COLD AND LONELY PLACE, or if this time spent on her character was the first step in establishing a series, but whichever, Sara J. Henry has done a stellar job in character development.  Secondly, I liked the pace of the novel -- brisk but not rushed or frantic. Of course when Troy  goes off to find the father and finally the authorities are alerted, she is considered a suspect herself, but that does not stop her from continuing to solve the mystery of the boy Paul's abduction herself.  While there is suspense to all this, it does not become a chaotic chase  with illogical bits of "daily life" thrown in.  Instead Henry tells it much like I think it would happen if such a kidnaping had actually happened.  The father and boy try to settle into a new version of normalcy while dealing with the psychological trauma of the boy's time in captivity.  Troy is valued as a rescuer, but must return to her own life, despite being unwilling to just walk away from the unsolved mystery.  The police, both in Canada and in the US, do not want to let the case drop, but really do not have neither information nor resources to do much other than wait.

While visiting the author's website, I learned this interesting side note, the author herself once lived in Lake Placid, worked as a reporter there, lived in a large home with many roommates, and like Troy had a dog named Tiger.  Bookclubs all over have selected these novels for club reads, meaning I can confidently assume that others love the quirky Troy Chance as much as I do.

I obtained a copy of Sara J. Henry's first suspense novel from our library system and already have on my to read pile the second book, A COLD AND LONELY PLACE.  I am delighted I have found another suspense author I like, someone who can tell a great story, but does not have to lace it with sex or profanity.  My only regret is that once I finish the second book, I will need to wait until she publishes a third.

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