by Elaine Marie Alphin
Cameron Miller's Pop locked him in the cellar while he beat to death the boys he kidnapped--more than 20 boys over the years and Cameron, too, has suffered at his father's hands. As this gripping novel opens, the police have finally raided his Tennessee home and fatally shot Pop. Cameron, seeing a chance at a normal life, decides to pass himself off as one of Pop's murder victims and claims he is Neil Lacey, missing for six years. Alphin (Tournament of Time) builds the pressure masterfully, describing Cameron's constant fear of being found out by the Laceys or the suspicious police detective. He chokes down Neil's favorite meals and fumbles for the answers to old family riddles, all the time observed by his hostile sister, who resents the effect that Neil's disappearance and rediscovery has had on their parents. The tensions accelerate to a fever pitch when Pop's accomplice Cougar shows up, threatening to unmask him if Cameron doesn't cooperate with Cougar's crimes. The author's treatment of each character's psychological wounds is also impressive, and she doesn't skirt the subject of DNA testing or other forensic refutation of Cameron's identity. Though Alphin races through the conflicts a little too quickly, she achieves a neat and happy ending; readers will be enthralled by her suspenseful plot. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Booklist, September 15, 2000, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.:
Gr. 8-12. Cameron Miller has spent his life with his monstrous father, who kidnaps and then abuses and murders young boys. When his father is killed in a shoot-out with the police, Cameron decides to take the identity of one of the victims and be part of a nonabusive family. As Neil Lacey, he is "reunited" with an upper-middle class family. The mother and father fall for his ruse, but the family's daughter and a police officer are soon on to him. The reappearance of his father's scummy cohort, who attempts to kidnap the youngest son in the Lacey family, forces Cameron to reveal his scam, which turns out not to be quite the trick Cameron thought. The plot is both grim and over-the-top, which will turn off many teens. But those who stick with it will find that Alphin has done a creditable job of evoking a confused, abused boy's psychological state and his longing to find a real family.
¾: Todd Morning.: