“Wherever She Goes” by Kelley Armstrong begins slowly with a main character who doubts her actions and her decisions so much that we wonder if she is completely rational. One day, Aubrey Finch thinks she sees a child being kidnapped in a park, but when she reports what she saw to the police, they don’t believe her. After all, one officer explains, “Few crimes are reported as quickly as a snatched kid,” and there was no such report. But Aubrey had briefly met the child and his mother in the park before, and she knows that what she saw was a child being abducted.
But when an unidentified woman turns up murdered, and Aubrey realizes that the murdered woman is the mother of the child she reported kidnapped, Aubrey finds herself drawn into a situation that most would be ill prepared to handle. By being a Good Samaritan and trying to help the child — a child that the police don’t believe exists — Aubrey has placed herself in danger.
But Aubrey’s mysterious background, which she has hidden from her estranged husband, is just what might be needed to provide justice for the kidnapped child whose mother is no longer alive to protect him. Aubrey grew up learning self-defense and her brilliant tech skills are just what is needed to hunt down who and where the child might be. Hint: Russian crime lords might be involved.
In the meantime, Aubrey is suffering from her separation with her husband and their three-year-old daughter. She sees her daughter on weekends, but she second-guesses everything she does related to her daughter and even her estranged husband. At times, we want to shake some sense into her. But ironically, when it comes to detective work and protecting a child, Aubrey doesn’t hesitate. She knows exactly what to do and how to do it.
Aubrey is that often suffering Good Samaritan who is disbelieved and punished for trying to do the right thing — something that most would not do. She met a woman and her son in the park briefly. They chatted for ten minutes. A few days later, she saw the woman’s son being forcibly abducted at the parking lot of a park. And while most people would report what they saw and then let the police do their work, Aubrey can’t let it go. She has to find out if the police believe her and are trying to help the child. Because as a child, a toddler, no one helped her when she and her mother were most in need of assistance, and that had deadly results.
Armstrong is a wonderful writer and her sense of plot and dialogue are honed and ring true. As the pace picks up, we come to understand Aubrey and why, although she might seem like a nobody who works part-time at a library and can’t afford more than a run-down apartment in a bad part of town, there is much more to her. Armstrong creates two stories that balance each other — the mystery that Aubrey is investigating and the mystery of Aubrey’s personal life. Both mysteries develop and move quickly through the story.
This would be a good choice for a book club wanting a thriller that raises questions about morality, helping others, and how far would one go to do the right thing. The one thing that both the police and the bad guys won’t believe about Aubrey is that she just met the murdered woman briefly but is going to literally lethal lengths to protect the woman’s son. Of course, unless you know Aubrey’s backstory, it might be difficult to understand.
Armstrong wrote this as a stand-alone, but be sure to also read her “Rockton” series about a fictional settlement in the Yukon for white collar criminals and those fleeing persecution and danger and the detective who must solve the group’s crimes. Start with “City of the Lost” and read all the books in the series.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Minotaur Books, the publisher, for review purposes.