"The Night Monster" is the first James Swain book I have read. I do enjoy mystery/suspense/thrillers though and was looking forward to reading the novel.
Jack Carpenter was the detective in charge of the Broward County, Florida, Sheriff's Department Missing Person Bureau when it was first formed. After heading that department for sixteen years Jack was fired for beating up a suspect. Two years later he is still searching for missing people, only now he does it as a private citizen. There is one particular missing woman that Jack can't get out of his mind because he had a chance to rescue her as she was being abducted. Instead, he made a mistake and the woman has never been heard from again. Carpenter's daughter is a basketball player for the University of Florida Lady Seminoles and she asks him to check out two men who seem to be stalking the team. Jack realizes that one of these stalkers is the same man who was involved in the abduction all those years ago. What follows is a series of near misses in capturing these two men and rescuing the young woman they have just kidnapped.
This book was definitely of the page turner variety as it got closer to the resolution of the mystery. I particularly liked the relationship between Jack and his daughter even though I would have liked for that to have been more detailed. I really liked for Jack to have his dog, Buster, as his helper and sidekick. That made the story very interesting even though it did mean a lot of attention had to be paid to the welfare of the dog. I have to admit that I found myself wondering if he ever fed the poor dog anything other than table scraps and pizza crust.
There were several things I didn't care for very much in the story. It was a really foolish mistake on the part of his lead character while serving as a uniformed patrol officer which led to the first kidnapping. So is that why Swain chose to depict all uniformed officers as unintelligent and poorly trained? There were two instances of missing children which were inserted rather haphazardly into the story. In the first instance of the autistic boy, was there not one single member of the official Missing Persons Bureau who could be sent to cope with that situation? Was Jack Carpenter the only person the department head believed could handle the case even though he wasn't even a member of the police force? That rescue situation was just a trifle hard for me to swallow and was the cause of my first groan of disbelief while reading this book. In the case of the missing thirteen year old girl, would the police department actually allow such a high profile case to be investigated by an outsider? And he could solve it in a matter of minutes after arriving on the scene where all official officers had failed to note such an obvious clue? These instances stood out as unbelievable to me, especially with this character and his persona non grata status with the department. I understand that the author was showing the relationship Carpenter had with the current head of the Missing Persons Bureau but it really did seem to be quite a stretch in believability. I doubt very seriously that Swain will make any friends among uniformed officers with this book, they are all shown in a very poor light. Another problem I had was with the situation Carpenter and the FBI agent found in the town of Chatham. Now that was so strange that if fairly made my head spin and I didn't believe for a minute that the situation could actually happen.
As I said before, this book became a real page turner for me as it neared it's conclusion. I enjoyed it, but not so much that I didn't notice some difficulties.