Review: Stealing Jenny

Jenny Callahan has has five children, with another one due in a week. She and her husband have no money problems, only the issues that come with five children. They’re in a nice, loving relationship, where their biggest problem is her mother-in-law.

Then Jenny gets kidnapped by a total psycho who wants her child for herself, and we’re off to the races.

Stealing Jenny is actually not a bad thriller.  It’s tightly written, nice and tense, complete with character studies, personal histories, and one of the better bad guys I’ve seen in a while.  There isn’t a single car chase or fight scene, but the story doesn’t suffer, even though it decidedly lacks the action usually stuffed into the standard thriller.

I like this one for several reasons. It has a nice, well-developed family, with its own quirks, personality traits, and history. We see a neat character arc in Jenny’s relationship with her high school love, the development as the antagonist and how she got that way, and even the detective has her own distinctive voice.

The villain also has her own character arc of evil.

Now, one of the things you have to understand is that in my household, my father always had a soft spot for David Mahmet.  We would never keep one of his films, but we always appreciated them. He always loved House of Games because the lead (Joe Mantegna) was an unrepentant bastard right up to the end. It’s not something we see much anymore.

Which leads to the primary antagonist, Denise.  As noted, Denise has kidnapped Jenny for the sole purpose of stealing her unborn child. Unable to conceive, instead of adopting, Denise figures, quite simply, that Jenny has more than her “fair share” of children, and Denise *deserves* the one Jenny is carrying.

Is Denise insane? Maybe. Is she creepy as Hell? Yup. She is also stone cold evil. Nothing matters but herself. When kidnapping Jenny, she tied Jenny’s toddler to a sign post with a dog collar and leash, and I half expected her to kill him if she heard him crying for a few more seconds. She’s not violent, there are no schemes to take over the world, though diabolical is a mild description for this creature from the black lagoon. Total nut job? Maybe. Evil? Hell yes. I’ve seen vampires that were less of a blood-sucking monster than Denise.

There is no touchy-feely ending at the end of the book. Is there a moral to the story? I guess you can read one into it — most of the reviews online refer to it as a “pro-life” novel, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. It’s not preachy or pushy, or particularly loud in its beliefs. The family is Catholic, but they’re not saints, and when faced with an implacable evil, they must all come together or fail miserably.  Is there forgiveness and redemption?  After a fashion.

At the end of the day, this was a solid thriller, up there with anything written by Jeffery Deaver or Lee Child.

Declan Finn is a Dragon Award nominated author. His “Catholic Vampire romance novels” can be found on his personal website. As well as all the other strange things he does.

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About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, and nominated for Best Horror at the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, to be released by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set to Kill," murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.