Tuesday, January 31, 2012

HELPLESS - Daniel Palmer

First line: Love can make you do surprising things.

The bitter divorce is not a foreign concept in the United States. And Tom Hawkins deals with that bitterness from his ex-wife Kelly. He could tolerate the cold shoulder from her if she wasn’t poisoning their daughter Jill’s view of him as well.

Tom coaches Jill’s soccer team and makes extra efforts to overcome Kelly’s negativity, but there’s still a chasm that exists between he and Jill. It’s that chasm that wreaks havoc on Jill’s ability to trust Tom when Kelly is murdered and Tom is accused of inappropriate behavior with his soccer players. When evidence starts to surface proving the accusations, Tom has to race time to protect Jill and find out who is working to destroy his life.

Daniel Palmer proved his thriller-writing chops with his debut novel, DELIRIOUS. Now back for Round Number Two, he’s honing those skills and the readers reap the benefits. HELPLESS is a fast-paced, timely novel that will have parents checking their children’s cell phone daily, if not hourly. Building on his foundation of suspense-writing, he moves away from the techno-thriller and into our everyday lives. We don’t wonder if technology like that can exist. We’ve read about sexting in our newspapers and heard related crimes on the TV news shows. Tom’s experience seems less like a conspiracy and more like a terrifying reality.

The greatest growth I see in Palmer’s writing between DELIRIOUS and HELPLESS is his character development. This may be in part due to the circumstances he’s created for his characters in this second go round, but the depth of Tom’s character intermingled with his struggling father-daughter relationship creates an empathetic protagonist. And likewise, Palmer does an exceptional job of illustrating the conflicted teen-age girl. His uncanny representation of all of the teens in this novel would lead you to think there are several living in his house with him. That’s not the case, so the fact that he’s done so well with them is a credit to his skill.

If I highly recommend this novel, I must also give it a warning. If you pick it up, you’ll be HELPLESS to put it down.

HELPLESS is available today in hardcover (ISBN: 9780758246653 ) from Kensington and on audio (ISBN: 9781611063516) from Brilliance, narrated by Phil Gigante.


Italia February 19, 2012 at 7:58 PM  

HELPLESS is far from a simple story, but it is in no way difficult to follow. It follows what happens to Tom when his bland suburban existence is fractured by his ex-wife’s murder, which brings secrets from his military past back to the fore as he endures an online attack that graphically accuses him of horrible crimes against the kids whose soccer team he coaches.

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