Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: December 2011
Reviewed by Melody Ballard
The phone rings and Ian Hunt’s life will never be the same. He hears the frantic, terrified voice of a young girl pleading for help from her daddy. She is able to provide the briefest of information before Ian hears a scream and the line goes dead. Seven years ago Ian’s daughter Maggie disappeared, abducted from her home. Since that time Ian has been divorced from his wife, alienated from his son, and his daughter has been declared legally dead. Ian is a police dispatcher in the small town of Bulls Mouth Texas. As thoughts race through Ian’s mind, so do the thoughts and fears of his daughter Maggie and of the man called Henry.
With his longtime friend and companion, Deputy Diego Pena, Ian begins his journey from Texas into hell. There are few secrets among the residents of Bulls Mouth Texas though this is true of almost any small town. Each day people go about their daily routines and find contentment with their sameness. Eventually Ian and Deputy Pena arrive at a small desert town in California. The townsfolk appear to be like any others and like others they have shades of darkness within them.
Ian is consumed with a frantic and terrifying rage as he searches for Maggie. Clues appear only to vanish as he tracks a kidnapper that he doesn’t know. As he gets closer to the truth a madness of its own seems to overtake him and his brutality and violence overpower any truth and compassion he once had. Maggie continues to spiral into a world of her own creation. This world enables her to endure the horrors that she must face each day.
The behavior of the psychopath named Henry becomes even more bizarre. As he tries to elude Ian, he continues to shield his wife from her own hell. The macabre relationship between Henry and his wife Beatrice works well and is the foundation of their madness and also the central element of The Dispatcher.
As I read this novel, several questions came to mind. What is the catalyst for this story: true evil or madness? Who are the real monsters in this story; the pursuer or the pursued? Will Maggie ever be able to return to a normal life after living in the darkness of her own nightmare world? One thing is certain, Jahn has created a tension that grabs you by the throat, squeezes until you can bear no more, and leaves you gasping for breath.
Warning – graphic violence.