Robert Dugoni has written an edge-of-your-seat thriller in The Conviction. This novel has a plot that grabs readers from the first few pages and holds them by the throat until the final problems have been solved or unraveled. This is a stay-up-all-night thriller that bodes well for this writer's career. If his future novels are this slick and successful he is going to have quite the career.
The plot is centered around attorney David Sloane and his stepson Jake. When the story opens teenager Jake has gotten into trouble with the authorities one time too many. The judge says he has to get into counseling and she offers David a chance to enforce this requirement. This means Jake will spend the summer with David in California rather than going home with his real father.
Jake remains surly and uncooperative when David gets him home, so David jumps at the chance to join his good friend Tom Molia and his son TJ on a trip through the lesser known areas of California. But this goes wrong almost immediately as Jake manages to get into trouble and drags TJ into it. The two boys sneak out at night and rob a store and steal a gun. They are caught by the police and before David and Tom are even aware they are gone the two boys are tried and sentenced to a juvenile facility.
When the two men become aware of what has happened they try at least to see the boys but they are denied even that right. The two boys are in the facility and can't be seen for weeks. All the fathers can do now is fight their imprisonment through the legal system. Meanwhile the two boys learn that this is a "camp" presided over by sadistic guards and administrative forces. It will take all they can do just to stay alive while their fathers fight the system.
Dugoni creates scenes of real fear and terror. He brings to life a parent's worst nightmare and then lets it keep getting worse and worse. Some of the situations he creates are a little farfetched but overall the impact of the story is realistic. Jake and TJ are not supermen but rather have to face their hurdles as much as their physical abilities will allow them.
Robert Dugoni's genius is in the plotting. He alternates the story between the sons and the fathers and manages to keep both scenarios gripping. Not only are the boys in physical danger but so are their fathers. There are forces in this area of California who do not want their lives and actions exposed. If David and Tom dig too deeply they will have to be eliminated.
If you are looking for an action thriller of the first order, this is the book to read. You will absorb this story in one sitting and then prepare yourself to be anxiously awaiting Dugoni's next effort. Based on the intensity of this one you know it is going to be good.
The Conviction is published by Touchstone. It contains 384 pages and sells for $25.00.
Jackie K Cooper