‘Taken by the Wind: A Jane Lawless Mystery’
By Ellen Hart
Your bag was packed.
There wasn’t much in it except for the necessities: your two favorite toys, a clean T-shirt, the stuffed animal you couldn’t sleep without and $2.31.
There wasn’t much there for actual survival, but you were a little kid running away from home — what did you know? At least, unlike in the new novel “Taken by the Wind” by Ellen Hart, you weren’t running into danger.
Jack Lindstrom and Gabriel Born weren’t just cousins. The 12-year-olds were best friends; they did everything together, spent practically every night at one’s house or the other, they even liked the same things.
Jack, the boys’ parents knew, was headstrong and impulsive. Gabriel was quieter, and prone to introspection. It was, therefore, a surprise to Jack’s two dads and to Gabriel’s mom and stepdad that the boys had apparently run away together. Eric Lindstrom figured it was because he and his partner, Andrew Waltz, had recently split. Surely, Jack was feeling angry, and was acting out. But Eric’s sister, Suzanne, Gabriel’s mother, didn’t understand why Gabriel went along with the scheme. It wasn’t like him to do anything like that.
When the boys didn’t return within a few hours, Andrew called his friend, Jane Lawless. As a practicing PI (and part-time restaurateur), Jane would know what to do and how to fix it because this supposedly-childish runaway episode had begun to look way more sinister.
But Jane was as stumped as were the boys’ parents. It was true that the disappearance was suspicious. It was also true that Eric and Andrew had been victims of anti-gay harassment, though that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the boys’ vanishing. A few people in their small town of Winfield, Minn., had grudges with members of the family, but nothing this serious.
And then the ransom note arrived.
Though she helped scrape together the money to pay whomever was demanding it, Jane was uneasy about that ransom. It didn’t make sense, especially once Jack was released, unharmed, unaware of the identity of the child-snatcher, and unable to answer one important question: why did the kidnapper keep Gabriel?
“Taken by the Wind” is middling, a solid five.
Over the course of several books in this series, author Ellen Hart’s main character, Jane Lawless, has evolved into a fine PI with excellent skills of deduction and enough outside support to allow her to get the job done. I like Jane; she’s taciturn and smart, kind of a lesbian Columbo.
The mystery itself in this book is decent and filled with just the right amount of keep-you-guessing, but it’s also filled with too many side stories and too much detail, hence the middle-of-the-road rating: both of the latter felt like unnecessary padding. Both distractions almost made me completely lose interest more than once.
This isn’t the best mystery I’ve ever read, but it’s not the worst, either. “Taken by the Wind” blows hot and cold.