Last year I reviewed Delirious by Daniel Palmer (http://www.redheadedbookchild.com/2011/01/delirious-by-daniel-palmer-guest-review.html) and I was excited to get the opportunity to review his new book, Helpless.
From the author's website:
Nine years after he left Shilo, New Hampshire, former Navy Seal Tom Hawkins has returned to raise his teenage daughter, Jill, following the murder of his ex-wife, Kelly. Despite Tom’s efforts to stay close to Jill by coaching her high school soccer team, Kelly’s bitterness fractured their relationship. But life in Shilo is gradually shaping up into something approaching normal. Normal doesn’t last long. Shilo’s police sergeant makes it clear that Tom is his chief suspect in Kelly’s death. Then an anonymous blog post alleges that Coach Hawkins is sleeping with one of his players. Internet rumors escalate, and incriminating evidence surfaces on Tom’s own computer and cell phone. To prove his innocence, Tom must unravel a tangle of lies about his past. For deep amid the secrets he’s been keeping—from a troubled tour of duty to the reason for his ex-wife’s death—is the truth that someone will gladly kill to protect.
The book opens with Tom Hawkins on the field coaching the high school girls soccer team, where he sees the police approaching him and he thinks, “They know what I did. They’re coming for me. The secret is out.” I’m a sucker for a story that starts with a secret. And I have to keep reading until I know what that secret is. And all the characters in Helpless are hiding something. As the book develops, you discover the secrets bit by bit. But one of the great things about this book is that as you discover the secrets, you still do not know how they all intersect until the very end.
Palmer’s theme of utilizing technology as a basis for his thriller works very well. While I’ve always been a fan of the Mission Impossible/James Bond type of technology and gadgets that are unbelievably (and unrealistically) fantastic, I like that Palmer instead uses everyday technology that we’re all familiar with, therefore easy to understand and relate to. That simplicity is what makes the story so scary. Seemingly innocent and private interactions can quickly spiral out of control, causing irreparable damage to people’s lives. Bad people with too much knowledge can manipulate technology in ways to benefit them. And you always think it won’t happen to you.
As with Delirious, I read this book in only a few days. Everytime I thought I was close to figuring it out, something happened to keep me guessing. Like Michelle, I want and expect twists and turns in my thrillers and this one delivered. Up until the very end, there were unexpected events that I did not see coming.
In Helpless, I see a tremendous amount of growth in Palmer’s writing since his first book last year. The story is more detailed and more suspenseful. The characters are likeable and relatable. As part of this thriller, Palmer explores the depths and bonds of multiple relationships – parent-child, adult friendship, teen friendship, colleague, adult-teenager, with a little romance thrown in. Palmer’s only written two novels but he has me hooked. I read a lot of suspense and mysteries and, but only have a few authors where I anxiously await the next book. Palmer is definitely one of those authors for me.