Author Rachel Herron is best known for writing women’s fiction, but with Stolen Things, she’s switched gears and written a thriller under the name R.H. Herron. It’s a story about a mother and her teenage daughter who must learn to trust one another in a new way if they hope to uncover some truly dreadful secrets.
Laurie works as an emergency dispatcher for her local police department. It’s a far cry from her first job as a cop, but an incident on the street ended her police career right around the time she learned she was pregnant with her daughter Jojo. The incident in question remains shrouded in mystery until toward the end of the novel, so readers are likely to have a few questions until the truth is revealed. Laurie’s husband is the chief of police, and fifteen-year-old Jojo is happy and well-adjusted, giving us the impression that Laurie’s life is pretty close to perfect. But everything changes one evening when Laurie takes a 911 call from a disoriented Jojo who finds herself locked in a room in a strange house with no memory of how she got there.
Laurie is understandably horrified when she hears her daughter’s voice on the other end of the phone, but she does her best to appear calm, cool, and collected as she gathers the information needed to dispatch officers to Jojo’s location. Once police arrive on the scene, it becomes apparent that Jojo has been sexually assaulted. Plus, a dead body is found in the closet of the room where Jojo was found. No one understands the connection Jojo has to the professional football player who owns the house, and Jojo herself is unwilling to answer any questions put to her by the police. And then, as if all this wasn’t enough, Jojo lets slip the fact that her best friend Harper was with her earlier that evening, but hasn’t been seen since.
The police seem certain that the owner of the house is guilty of assaulting Jojo and murdering the man stuffed into the closet, but as Laurie continues to question her daughter, it becomes clear there’s more going on than anyone knows. Jojo has been keeping quite a few secrets from her parents, and those secrets have the power to land her entire family in terrible danger. Laurie is determined to get to the bottom of Jojo’s secrets, but there are several powerful people who are equally determined to keep those secrets under wrap.
Laurie and Jojo must work together in a way they never have before, learning to trust one another completely if they are to have any hope of locating Harper and bringing her home safely. But will they be able to remain one step ahead of their numerous enemies, especially if those enemies are a lot closer to them than at first suspected?
Since the story is told from the perspectives of both Laurie and Jojo, the reader is given quite a bit of insight into the hearts and minds of both women. I found Jojo’s chapters to be a bit more interesting than Laurie’s because she is an extremely dynamic character with lots of emotional turmoil to deal with. In many ways, her problems are run-of-the-mill, but as the story progresses, the things lurking in the shadows of Jojo’s existence are brought into the light, and what first appeared insignificant begins to seem much more important.
That’s not to say that Laurie’s chapters are boring, because they aren’t, but her character didn’t intrigue me the way Jojo’s did. I wanted to know what happened to end her career as a police officer, but that was the only burning question I had about :Laurie as an individual. I did enjoy watching her work to uncover the truth behind Jojo’s rape and Harper’s disappearance, and the author did a wonderful job keeping me guessing until the very end of the story.
If you’re drawn to psychological thrillers because of their tendency to be a little bit over the top, Stolen Things will be right up your alley. None of the twists are completely implausible, but many of them feel the slightest bit contrived. These aren’t the kinds of things that are likely to happen to the people in your life, but then, isn’t that what’s so appealing about so many of these books? To me, Ms. Herron’s first thriller is high-quality escapist fiction, capable of keeping me reading late into the night, and I’m thrilled to recommend it to fans of the genre.