One must wonder while reading Fiona King Foster’s first novel, who is truly the captive? Is it fugitive Stephen Cawley, who spends the majority of the novel bound with rope and twist-ties, or is it protagonist Brooke Holland, who seems trapped by her past misdeeds? There is no easy answer, which makes the novel so beguiling.
The Captive is part adventure novel and part crime novel, set in a dystopian landscape where cellphones, the internet and vehicles are available to only certain people, particularly those in Federal-run cities. We slowly learn that Brooke is hiding a dark past from even her husband, Milo, and daughters, Holly and Sal. When she gets word that Stephen and his gang may be in the area, she immediately goes on high alert, certain that he has tracked her down and come to exact his revenge on her.
Brooke gets the drop on Stephen when he shows up at her rural cranberry farm, quickly overpowering him. Afraid the rest of his clan might not be far behind, she mobilizes her family, and together they set out on a punishing hike over rugged terrain, traversing more than a hundred miles to the nearest town, where she can turn Stephen over to the sheriff’s office and collect the reward.
Foster keeps the tension high as Brooke refuses to reveal why Stephen is so dangerous and why she is so hellbent on bringing him to justice. You have to admire Brooke’s determination and sense of concern for her family, but also Milo’s ability to keep it together as he tries to support Brooke and quell the kids’ simmering rebellion over her lack of answers. This initial stonewalling is, admittedly, a bit frustrating for readers as well, but as a credit to Foster’s writing, she effectively keeps readers in suspense all the way through.