Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kim Powers's Dig Two Graves.
Ethan "Herc" Holt is known for his 2000 Olympic win, but now he's happy as a professor and widowed father doing his best to raise his daughter, Skip. His latest birthday, also the day he receives tenure at Canaan, ends with an argument that stretches into the following morning when his daughter leaves him on his run with a final flip of the bird. When Ethan arrives home later that day, hoping they can make amends, Skip is gone.
The police are quick to reassure the father, saying that teens go through this kind of thing and she'll likely be home in a few hours. That is until they see the outline of Skip's body painted in fake blood on her bed. No ransom is requested, though. Instead, the kidnapper has set a series of tasks for the former athlete to complete if he hopes to see his daughter again. The tasks, based on the 12 labors of Hercules, are designed specifically around Ethan's own life history. As the hours tick by and the tasks become more complex, Ethan pushes himself to his limits both physically and mentally but still can't figure out who the kidnapper could be or what fate waits at the finish line for both him and his daughter.
I must admit that I went into Dig Two Graves with pretty high expectations. I love author blurbs, especially when they come from authors who a. don't hand them out regularly and b. are authors whose work I love, so seeing that Deborah Crombie and Louis Bayard both highly recommended the title meant that the bar was set a little on the high side for Kim Powers. I wasn't surprised, though, to find that Powers lived up to my expectations after such high praise.
Using the labors of Hercules as a plot device while also making them relevant to a 21st century world was quite clever. The twisting of these labors by the kidnapper and how the subsequent tasks will appear are a large part of the tension of the story - what physical and mental gymnastics our hero will have to undertake in order to get one step closer to saving his daughter. Of course the how and why are also a big part of the mystery - how the kidnapper plotted this vengeance and why. And the what, too. What it all means?!
The who is less of a question if you follow Powers's clues. I will admit to having figured that out quite early on but I do think it's one readers are maybe supposed to tease out earlier than Ethan himself all things considered. That doesn't mean there weren't a few twists along the way, and a few red herrings too.
I love that Powers split the narrative, giving Skip a few of her own chapters. Some might say the wondering would be more intense putting us right in the same boat as Ethan, but I think it made Skip more relatable and actually made her potential fate that much more terrifying. Seeing the kidnapper's actions through her eyes, knowing that Ethan is still working to find them and save her - and that saving her might not even be part of the kidnapper's plot... what could be more intense than that?
Dig Two Graves is a great new mystery that pits a pretty much everyman (with the exception of the whole gold medal winning decathlete thing) against tough odds. It's one that will definitely appeal to fans of Linwood Barclay and Harlan Coben.
To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Kim Powers you can visit his website here. You can also friend him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.