A decade ago, eight-year-old Aubree Lansing peeked from her hiding place in the closet and saw the unthinkable: a dead body on her bedroom floor and a man standing close by with a gun in his bloodstained hands. A man she called daddy.
Vengeance by Clair M. Poulson begins with a chilling premise. What if a child witnessed a terrible crime and is required to testify in court against her own father? And what if her testimony sends him to prison, then comes a day when he is given an early release and the daughter, now an adult, learns he has sworn to get even with the person whose testimony condemned him?
Aubree finds herself in just that position. Her mother has remarried and she now has a younger brother and sister, twins, she has become accustomed to watching over and protecting since both her mother and her stepfather have high profile careers that leave them little family time. When Stone Lansing is released from prison and makes his way to the mansion where his ex-wife and the children live, it becomes clear Aubree must disappear for a time until a better plan can be worked out. Aubree's parents decide the safest action for Aubree to take is to proceed with the cruise they had planned as a family vacation. Both have career emergencies which prevent them from joining the children on the cruise.
Aboard the cruise ship, Aubree is befriended by the head of security, Torben Davidsen, a young man who suspects something is scaring her. As the ship stops at various European cities, Aubree discovers leaving the ship is not safe for her or the children. In desperation she calls a police officer back in the states who had befriended her and the children and who hid them until they could board their flight to meet up with the cruise ship. He gives them advice and speaks with Torben about their situation. He also begins an investigation to discover how Stone discovered his daughter's whereabouts and delves into the case that sent him to prison. Several near disasters leave them frightened and anxious for their mother to join them at one of their future ports. Unfortunately their mother isn't the only one anxious to meet and board their ship.
The cruise ship setting and various western European port cities provides an interesting background for this story and, as usual, the author's law enforcement background provides believable twists and turns. Aubree is likable, but she doesn't grow or change much through the story. I found the mother the least believable character in the story. From being so involved in her career and negligent toward her children to being so concerned she defies her manager and her husband to get to them seems odd. Her easy acceptance of her first husband's guilt and hasty remarriage seems a little off too.
Poulson's novels are always high in action and loved by a wide spectrum of readers. This one is no exception. He is a master at creating unusual situations and characters with large helpings of courage. His settings are usually rural western, so this book is a departure in place. The only part of this story that doesn't feel real and exciting is the conversion element which is a little too convenient.
Claire M. Poulson retired after twenty years in a widely diverse law enforcement career. He served first in the U.S. Military Police Corps, then the Utah Highway Patrol, followed by deputy than county sheriff. He currently serves as a justice court judge. During his long law enforcement and judicial career he has served on many county, state, and federal boards and committees. Along with his career in law he helps his oldest son operate a grocery store, ranches with family members, and raises registered Missouri Fox Trotter horses. This is his seventeenth published novel. He and his wife live in Duchesne, Utah, and are the parents of five children and grandparents of twenty-one grandchildren.
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VENGEANCE by Clair M. Poulson, published by Covenant Communications, softcover, 261 pages, $16.99