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Detour    by James Siegel order for
by James Siegel
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Detour, James Siegel gives us a frightening thriller that demands a continuing reassessment of who truly are the good guys and who the bad. Paul (an actuary) and Joanna (an HR executive) Breidbart have a loving marriage and want a baby. Since they can't have their own, they decide to adopt, and an enthusiastic lawyer, Miles Goldstein, sorts it all out for them. As the novel opens, they're on a plane for Bogota, Columbia, to meet their new baby girl.

All goes well, at first, despite some of the rather macabre things they see around them - the man with no head at the airport, and the field of human heads as they drive later. They learn that the country is entangled in ongoing eruptions of conflict between leftist guerillas (FARC) and brutal rightist paramilitary (USDF). A kindly, spry old man, named Pablo, meets them, and escorts them to their hotel and to the orphanage. There, they fall in love with their new daughter whom they name Joelle. Back at the hotel, they meet the baby's nurse, a 'miracle worker' named Galina.

Happy ending? If there is, it's soon clear that the journey towards one is taking a humongous detour. First, it seems like the baby's been kidnapped, and then Joanne is certain they don't have the same infant. When Paul humors her, they get mired deeper and deeper in trouble - involving kidnapping, FARC rebels, drug-runners, the Russian Mafia, DEA agents, and an imprisoned USDF leader, whose deadly influence reaches far outside his prison cell. They're separated and each left to wonder if the other still survives. Paul finds himself doing things well outside the ken of his conservative profession, 'a career whose sole purpose was controlling risk.'

As Paul and Joanna fight desperately for their and their baby's survival, another story slowly emerges - of a lovely little girl named Claudia who grew up wanting 'to feel the puddles' and make a difference, and of her dreadful fate at the hands of a dark bogeyman, a fate whose consequences rippled out to engulf the Breidbarts. Detour is a totally compelling twister of a tale that takes its comfortably conservative protagonists far out of their comfort zones into surprising, and ultimately satisfying action. This is one detour you really must take.

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