SEVEN MINUTES TO NOON
Signet, May 2005
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
Lauren Barnet is missing. Alice Halpern, Maggie Blue and Lauren Barnet are best friends -- almost like sisters. One fall afternoon in Brooklyn, Alice, who is pregnant with twins, waits for Lauren at the park so they can go together to pick up their children from school. Lauren never shows up. Alice goes on to the school to get her two children. When Lauren still doesn't come to pick up her son, Alice takes him home with her. Lauren doesn't answer her cell phone after many attempts to reach her, so Alice finally calls Maggie. At first they suspect Lauren must have gone into labor since she was almost due to give birth. But hours later their excitement turns to fear. After anxiously calling the hospitals they finally contact Lauren's husband Tim, who is in Chicago on business, to inform him Lauren is missing.
In the days following Lauren's disappearance Alice discovers some disturbing facts. Two years earlier another pregnant woman, Christine Craddock, went missing from the same Park Slope area and has never been found. And Alice's landlord, Metro Properties, served eviction notices on both of the missing women prior to their disappearance. When Detectives Frannie Viola and Paul Giometti from the Brooklyn South Unit begin investigating Lauren's disappearance, Alice starts to fear for her own safety and the welfare of her unborn twins.
Alice Halpern is the narrator of this chilling tale. Readers will view the accelerating tension from her wildly careening emotions and hormonal perspective. Ms. Pepper takes the fears every mother has for her children and exploits it to a terrifying degree. She also keeps you guessing who the villain might be, with plenty of suspects to choose from.
The relationships between these friends -- husbands, wives and children -- creates a rich atmosphere with many layers. Their secrets are methodically exposed as the investigation progresses. If you are squeamish some of the descriptions of violence could bother you. What I really enjoyed about SEVEN MINUTES TO NOON is the characters and their relationship. But on the downside, I found the ending shocking and upsetting. The suspense and mystery element is tightly written and well done. I guarantee this story will keep you riveted until the last page.
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