by Catherine Lea
I haven’t read anything by Catherine Lea before, but I will now be eagerly checking for the next or any other book she has written. She has woven together a story that is tense, absorbing and structured cinematically by time and character perspective to hold the attention from page one until the end.
It’s a story of an optimistic kidnap that goes disastrously wrong because it’s carried out without proper planning by a moronic pair of brothers, Matt and Lionel. Matt has enlisted the help of his girl friend, Kelsey, whose own damaged past has impaired her judgement, and who comes to experience a shift in understanding and motivation as the narrative unfolds.
What lifts up this story from the ordinary is some clever plotting, and the 3-dimensional nature of main characters and support players. Each reveals to us how flawed human beings can be and, ultimately, that some of us are, if we choose to be, redeemable.
The kidnap victim herself is heartbreaking real. Holly is a 6-year old Down’s Syndrome girl, and the daughter of high-achieving parents. Neither has been able to reconcile what they got when she was born with what they believed themselves entitled to. Holly is endearing and vulnerable, and she wins Kelsey’s heart.
Though this leads to a shift from being ‘one of the gang’ to the role of Holly’s defender, Kelsey is still deeply mired in the consequences of the criminal actions she consented to. How she manages to resolve this is nail-biting stuff.
Lea brings to her narrative a suspense that is tightly maintained throughout. One example is the unwelcome publicity this bungled snatch brings to senatorial candidate Richard McLaine and his wife Elizabeth and how it leads to an unravelling of carefully constructed facades, personal, professional and marital.
Brought face to face with the realisation of where they have failed, the two women, Kelsey and Elizabeth, work hard to avert pending disaster. The end, when it comes, is a satisfying and heart-wrenching finale of losers and winners.
Because Catherine Lea has made you care so deeply about the significant actors within this compelling drama – the child Holly; reformed accomplice Kelsey and Holly’s shamed and self-blaming mother – we also care deeply about what happens to them. That makes The Candidate’s Daughter a real page-turner.
In my opinion, it would also make a great New Zealand movie. I hope some talent scout will sit down and read the book, uncover its potential and pitch it to a film director – it’s Nicki Caro or Jane Campion material for sure.
I am both a picky and experienced reader and I couldn’t put it down. Take a bow, Ms. Lea.
Tauranga-based writer and editor, member of the New Zealand Society of Authors
Brakelight Press, ISBN-13: 978-0473261757
Available in print, mobi for Kindle, and ePub
Digital editions available from Amazon.com, Amazon.com.au, & Amazon.co.uk
Print editions available at Amazon.com, CreateSpace.com, The Book Depository, Barnes and Noble.
Also, to borrow, through Auckland Library.