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Review: A Stranger in the Family, by Robert Barnard

HERB JOHNSON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
If you are a fan of carnage and mayhem, this is not your book. This is a quiet book about a boy who learns as a young man that he has been adopted. Not too exciting. The interesting part is that he finds out he has been abducted as a three-year-old and then, under mysterious circumstances, adopted by a really nice professional couple.
His adoptive parents die and just before they do so, he is told the name of his real parents. He seeks them out and learns they divorced many years ago. His mother still lives in the house in which he spent the first three years of his life and she is astounded and overjoyed to see him. His father is in an assisted-living home and is not overjoyed. In fact, he denies ever having been the young man’s father.
At this point, the story becomes a search for the truth of what happened 20 years ago when the young boy and his parents were on holiday in Sicily.
The mother remembers her son disappearing while she was buying them ice cream cones, but that’s about it. All the necessary clues have to come from people who were around at the time.
The journey to the truth is convoluted, but everything gets sorted out. A quiet book, but interesting.
If you prefer carnage and mayhem, Harlan Coben’s Stay Close might be your cup of tea. There is enough carnage over a period of 20 years that dental records are the only method of sorting out the pile of bones. Mind you, the carnage is tastefully done.
For mayhem, it’s always best to go with Lee Child and the Jack Reacher novels. Reacher beating up on one guy counts as mayhem. And he usually does at least two at a time. His latest, Make Me, starts off with a dead guy being buried in a pig pen. An auspicious beginning.
A word of warning, 61 Hours has an ending that leaves some doubt about Reacher’s survival. You have to read Worth Dying For to find out how he got out of the cavern when the jet fuel exploded. Since he’s still around in Make Me, he probably did.

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