"...a unique hybrid of James Patterson, Dan Brown, and Harlan Coben--with a wit and intelligence that are all Powers." --Louis Bayard, author of Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye
"...a tantalizing, expertly crafted suspense thriller." --Joseph Olshan, author of Nightswimmer
In his twenties, Ethan Holt won the decathlon at the Olympics and was jokingly nicknamed "Hercules"; now, in his late thirties, he's returned to his ivy-covered alma mater to teach, and to raise his young daughter Skip as a single father. After a hushed-up scandal over his Olympics win and the death of his wife in a car accident five years ago, Ethan wants nothing more than to forget his past. Skip is not only the light of Ethan's life--she is his life. Then, Skip is kidnapped. A series of bizarre ransom demands start coming in that stretch Ethan's athletic prowess to its limits, and he realizes with growing horror that they are modern versions of the Twelve Labors of Hercules, demanded in tricky, rhyming clues by someone who seems to have followed every step of Ethan's career.
A heart-tugging child-in-peril plot drives this thoughtful crime novel from Powers (Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story). Ethan "Hercules" Holt won an Olympic decathlon medal in his early 20s amid a steroid doping scandal involving a teammate. Now 39, Ethan is a classics professor at Canaan College, "just south of the Vermont border," and a single father raising a 13-year-old daughter, Skip, after his wife's death in a car accident. Following a father-daughter argument, Skip is kidnapped and Ethan receives rhyming notes that detail actions he must perform to get her back, each of which evokes the mythological 12 labors of Hercules, as well as his events in the Olympic decathlon. The kidnapper's knowledge of Ethan's past is eerily complete, and Ethan realizes he faces a foe out to revenge a wrong he can't remember committing. Powers nicely depicts the pathos of Ethan's situation, though the central motif of the "labors" becomes fairly muddled as the story progresses to a twist-filled resolution.