Jesse is breaking into a ramshackle house through the basement, his penlight shining on an inexplicable pink room, odd furnishings, decrepit conditions. As he climbs the steps, Jenny joins him, trying to get him to drop the plan but “he” has threatened Jesse’s sister. As they start up the steps, a fat naked man with a double barrel shotgun confronts them and everything goes to hell.
And There He Kept Her is a fast paced, well-written thriller about a small tourist town’s seamy side. Ben Packard, the Acting Sheriff of Sandy Lake, Minnesota left his twelve year career as a Minneapolis police officer after Marcus was killed. Who Marcus is and how he is connected to Ben develops throughout the novel. We quickly understand that Ben’s job is varied. It ranges from helping people confronted by an aggressive bear, to serving legal papers, to mediating a dispute between a gay man who stayed in his mothers home after she died and his pious neighbor who wants him out for who he is. The central theme of And There He Kept Her is the disappearance of two high school students who are in a relationship, Jesse and Jenny. That Jesse and Jenny. Ben starts an inquiry a little more quickly than he might because Jenny’s mother is Ben’s cousin. They are not close. When a detail comes up that makes it clear that the pair did not intend to be gone so long, the inquiry becomes a desperate search.
There are ways this is a classic story in a classic setting. For those who find stories about sexual deviants and violence problematic, this is a trigger warning. Don’t read this. For those who appreciate incredibly well drawn characters, with strong background stories, interconnections that are endemic to small towns, problems that are universal, lost people, good people and more this is for you. The plot is well written, the ending uncertain and the danger real. Highly recommend this debut writer and plan to look for sequels.