On September 6th, 1965, Sutter Wayne Thomas, 8, went missing from the Mecklenburg County Fairgrounds in Charlotte, North Carolina. He remained missing for eight years, and when he returned, horribly scarred and disfigured, he remembered nothing of where he had been, who had taken him, or what had happened to him. His abductor was never apprehended, or even identified.
30 years later, Sutter is a highly-successful true crime author and a public relations agent for missing children, lending his fame and fortune to the efforts for their safe return. For the most part he has adjusted to the world around him, though any lingering effects from his ordeal flare to the forefront when on the exact anniversary of his abduction, another 8-year-old boy goes missing from the exact place, at the exact time, in the exact way Sutter had.
Heritage by H. Perry Horton is the best fiction that I've read all year. The novel begins with a news article, drawing in readers while laying down the foundation of the story. The story follows the POV of Sutter - a former kidnap victim and now a public relations agent for families of missing children, Patrick - the current missing boy, and Dale - a detoxing junkie who might know where Patrick is being held. There is disturbing imagery of the tortured little boy, but the description is subtle - no graphic details of the actual violence. I am impressed with how Horton terrifies readers without exploiting the pain and suffering of the characters for shock value.
Possibly due to the number of horror/mystery/thriller books I have read, I guessed correctly which character is the perpetrator and how the person gets away with it, but it didn't ruin the story for me at all...and, even though I figured out who the killer is, I couldn't have predicted the ending if my life depended on it.
I've never been so traumatized by a fictional character before reading Heritage. I've had nightmares from stories before, but this novel is so horrifying, I couldn't even read it one sitting. I kept having nightmares that the killer broke into my house to get to my son.
Horton is an exceptional horror writer, a true master of suspense, and I sincerely think this novel should be given an award. I look forward to reading more from this author.