When Bobby and Susan Martin come across a dirty, shivering child at their campsite, the last thing the childless couple expects is to be drawn into an unthinkable crime. But when one of the boy's kidnappers comes out of the brush waving a gun, Bobby is forced to react. In one chaotic, explosive moment, the predator is brutally murdered. But was he a criminal -- or a cop?
With a vicious crime ring closing in on them, and unsure of whom to trust, Bobby and Susan desperately plunge into the heart of danger to save the boy -- and themselves.
John Gilstrap's Even Steven enhances his reputation as an ingenious and innovative contemporary thriller writer.
Corny internal monologues drag down this action-packed third novel by Gilstrap (Nathan's Run; At All Costs), featuring an ill-starred childless couple and a hapless young mom caught between the cops and the bad guys. Still grieving over the recent stillbirth of their first child, a son they named Steven, Susan and Bobby Martin are on a camping trip in the mountains of West Virginia to mark their fifth wedding anniversary when they encounter a frightened little boy and a suspicious man claiming to be his father. After the stranger pulls a gun, Bobby kills him in the ensuing struggle. Finding police ID on the corpse and fearing the consequences of having killed a cop, the Martins take the boy and flee. Having suffered several miscarriages before the stillbirth, Susan believes that God intends the boy to replace Steven. Meanwhile, in nearby Pittsburgh, down-on-her-luck April Simpson discovers that a local drug dealer has kidnapped her two-year-old son, Justin, to hold as a hostage until he can collect a debt from her ne'er-do-well husband. Desperate for her child's safety, April threatens a mob boss with blackmail and is arrested while attempting armed robbery of a department store. Elsewhere, on a rundown farm, the brother of the man Bobby killed is anguishing over not having come to his sibling's rescue. The hero-protagonist (of sorts) who connects all three stories is aging FBI agent Russell Coates, himself embroiled in an old bull/young bull struggle for king of the hill. Although underdeveloped characters, hokey escapes and rescues replete with pulp romance epiphanies give the thriller a comic opera ring, its swift forward motion will speed readers past its flaws.