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'Long Lost' by David Morrell

Book Briefs: ‘Long Lost’

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

By Sylvia Sachs


Long Lost

By David Morrell

Warner Books


Read the first couple of sentences of this new thriller and you get an ominous feeling the way you do at the beginning of a Hitchcock movie.

You know the subject of the title is going to reappear and it’s not going to be a happy reunion: “When I was a boy my kid brother disappeared. Vanished off the face of the earth. His name was Petey and he was bicycling home from an after-school baseball game.”

For 25 years, Brad Denning, the narrator, has mourned this loss. But three days after Denning, a successful architect, is interviewed on the “CBS Sunday Morning Show,” a scruffy man in his mid-30s surfaces and claims to be his brother.

At first Brad tries to get rid of the guy, thinking him a crank responding to the television mention of the disappearance. But the man describes his blue bicycle, which was found later and which had not been mentioned in the interview. Petey loved that bike, Denning always remembered.

So, the reunion begins. Denning’s wife, Karen, and his 11-year-old son, Jason, accept Petey and do everything to make him feel welcome. Things appear to be going well until Denning, Petey and Jason go on a hike and Denning is pushed over a mountainside. He survives the fall but is badly injured.

By the time he is rescued, his family -- and “Petey” -- have vanished.

Although the FBI turns up information that identifies Petey as a con man with a long record of crimes and scams, the trail goes cold. The investigation slows to a halt.

A year goes by and the formerly successful architect’s life has collapsed. Finally, Denning’s instinct takes over. He trains himself to be an outdoorsman and a marksman. He also tries to get into Petey’s head, because he believes the kidnapper is his brother, despite information to the contrary.

And then Denning sets out on one of the most harrowing chases imaginable. He follows false trails. He tries to remember details of the stories Petey had told during the few days after their reunion about his life after his disappearance He finds himself isolated in the dangerous, demented world of the captor and his victims.

And when Denning finally achieves his goal, it’s not a pretty picture. It will take a long time, if ever, for things to return to “normal” for this family. The reader wonders if Denning’s feelings of guilt will ever completely wear off.

The reviewer is the retired book editor of the former Pittsburgh Press.

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