reviewed from e-reader
Mariah leads a sad and broken life. At thirteen she tries to care for her Mom, a woman seriously addicted to meth. At the same time she is trying to avoid any contact with her mother's live-in boyfriend Manfred or Manny as he was usually referred to, the facilitator of her addiction and a violent man. It's midnight, and she can hear disturbing noises of violence, maybe a beating, maybe a murder near the garage. She sees a man almost lifeless being beaten with a two-by-four on the head by Manny when he hears and sees her and threatens her. From this moment, knowing Manny will come after her as witness and with certainty that he will kill her, she starts running for her life. In the meantime, he tries to drag the man's body and load him into the trunk of his car.
Mariah is a wonderful character, she keeps you glued to the book wondering what she is going to be able to do to escape next. She is very resourceful and manages at one point to conceal herself in the loft space in the back of a trailer-pickup combo when the driver is getting gas and though she has no idea where this rig will be going, she feels somewhat safe. She also manages to hand a note to the cashier at the gas & shop station to call 911 and have them go to her address with an ambulance and the police. As I said, resourceful. I loved this book with all its toughness. The interludes of the police who are also friends gone fishing was a great touch. These guys know how to get the best out of the worst, with the passion, the caring, the difficulties of living a normal life. The major head of the snake is more like the hydra, with drug cartels being the heads. This book takes place pretty much from Oregon to Mexico, a lot of land to cover and cover it the characters in this book do. From sheriffs to FBI to our runaway girl and finally to the cartel homes in Alamos, Mexico, the race is on, to find and save Mariah, to keep Amanda from being blown up, to save Mariah's mother, to catch Manny and much more. Also, there is a very good warning that many people don't think about on what can happen with an Amber Alert: Leave it to the police! A young girl who thinks she is helping by keeping people informed of Mariah but publicly saying she has been found could too easily have cost Mariah her life.
This story also created a background for seeing some everyday small town police at their best. A lot of good planning is involved, but at the same time all of them know it could go belly-up in the twitch of a hair or blink of an eye. The same applies to the FBI, NCIS, whatever other government agencies are there to back up or implement, whichever is needed. Mariah's story is terrifying, a thirteen-year old running for her life and yet she has a beautiful soul. With drug cartels involved in other areas but with a crossover due to Manny as a supplier, the tension throughout is steady, with a few of those fishing breaks and friendship breaks, and even then it's not restful, especially with a bomb in the mix. A trip to Mexico puts a definite crimp in the plans to take on a major drug cartel, one of the busiest doing business in the U.S., when another cartel fouls their plans. This is a book that will grab you, shake you up, and not let go. So much can go wrong and some of it does, but that's what keeps us on our toes in life and in this book it really works. I loved it.