The events in the book take place, as the title implies, over a five-day period. As it opens, on September 3, 2001 [and that specific date is significant], Emily Parker, a young wife and mother, has left her children - - a one-year- old girl and two boys, ages seven and eleven - - with her mother to run a small shopping errand. She never returns from that chore, and there is no clue as to what has happened to her. Vacationing in Cape Cod, the family had been scheduled to return to New York City the following day. Her husband and mother are stunned by her disappearance, and the police are immediately called in. The following day, her car is found in the parking lot of the market, the rotting groceries inside the vehicle.
The case is assigned to Detective Al Snow and a relative rookie, Amy Cardoza. In addition, joining the investigation is John Geary, former special agent and head [and one of the founders] of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, now retired after 30 years with that agency. When Emily’s disappearance is first reported, Geary was at the station working, in a basement office, on a book about cold cases he had worked, with the assistance of a man he had consulted with over the years, a renowned criminologist. Together they launch a manhunt, determined to find the woman and her abductor before things escalate.
As to the aforementioned significance of that date: Dr. Geary, among his cold cases, is immediately caught by one with unavoidable similarities, wherein over the span of several years six women have each been abducted on the 3rd of September, each one exactly seven years after the preceding one. Moreover, each was the mother of a boy between six and eight years of age, and each of those boys was abducted on precisely the fifth day following his mother’s disappearance, each ultimately found after having been gruesomely tortured and killed. The pattern was inescapable. They the crimes have been disparate geographically, they are convinced this is a work of a serial killer, and their time is fast running out.
Geary is a fascinating creation: beyond middle age, his appearance is described as a “state of overwrought, rumpled antagonism.” So too is Amy, a half-Portuguese woman overcoming the prejudices that come with that as well as her rookie status, but with great intelligence and instincts. The two work together and gain mutual respect in the process. The novel is filled with nail-chewing, breath-holding suspense, and is recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit