The unspeakable horror of child abduction in every form that this deplorable crime exists is rarely touched upon by the media. Granted there have been some books and some important films about the subject, but this fine book by Peter Thomas now opens the windows on the magnitude of these tragedies in his excellent CHASING THE CYCLONE - a book which is `inspired by a true story' and the proximity of the novel to the writer appears to come from the heart as well as the skill demonstrated by his craftsmanship as a storyteller.
What makes this story so unique is the aspect that the child abduction sequence in this novel is by one of the two parents of a seven-year-old boy named Alex. The story opens in medias res with the narrator Paul Francesco (the father of Alex) in a compassionate scene with one of his friends who is undergoing therapy for cancer. Gradually Thomas unfolds the background of Paul's plight to recover his beloved son from the restrictions imposed upon his visitation rights by the child's mother D. And here unfolds yet another aspect of the complexity of this thriller: Paul met D while undergoing treatment for neurofibromatosis and D's `attention' to him created a too brief association that resulted in a hasty marriage and the birth of Alex soon after. After his `recovery' Paul's faux marriage collapses and D takes her infant Alex from Paul's presence, demanding payments from Paul's ample finances not only for child support but also for multiple questionably valid reasons. Paul discovers that D has abducted Alex to Canada and here begins a drama of Paul's focused and committed attempts to regain his son, a journey that takes him to such places as New Zealand and other points of terror along the way, struggling with emotional, financial and physical attempts to thwart his success in regaining the son he loves so dearly.
As if the fast paced energy of this story weren't enough to satisfy the reader, Peter Thomas demonstrates his quality as a writer of distinction on many levels. For example, the court proceedings at the beginning of the book -a launching pad for the remainder of the story - are related in as tense and realistic way as any author has written, and all this by telephone between California and Canada! But in addition to his narrative, Thomas pauses here and there for sharing some bits of philosophy that bears special attention. In a section about how we all have allowed reading books to be drowned by the other available sources of information Thomas writes: `In essence, we surf or skim for data. This behavior has changed the way our society thinks. Fundamental to this change is the inability or lack of desire for a person to spike for details. The `why' and `how' - the reasoning behind the information is typically barely glimpsed over. Unfortunately, our imaginations are nurtured and prodded when we understand the `why's' and `how's'. And nothing provides us with a depth of understanding more than reading and books. But so long as society views reading and books as a third class activity, we will continue to lose our competitive global economic advantage by not grasping reasoning, which is the core of our imagination. Ingenuity will further become a word associated with countries like India and China.'
Perhaps this aside was not intended by the author to set the tone of his book as much as it does, but after reading this impossible to put down book, readers will likely return to these moments of intelligence Peter Thomas shares. Another aspect of CHASING THE CYCLONE is a glossary of information about the crime of international child abduction, complete with immediate resources should the reader or friends of the reader need further guidance through the tragedy depicted in this fine novel. A very satisfying novel as a thriller story, and an even more important sounding of the alarm about a crime we understand so vaguely. Grady Harp, August 10