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The End Game by Gerrie Ferris Finger
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312611552
Date: 27 April 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In Atlanta, there is the small neighborhood of Cabbagetown, which has a bizarre history of children being kidnapped and murdered. On a Saturday morning in April, the Barnes couple has been assassinated, their house set ablaze and their foster daughters, Jessie and Dottie Rose, abducted. Moriah Dru of Child Trace, Inc. and Detective Lieutenant Richard Lake of the Homicide Unit have been called upon the scene to locate the missing sisters.

During their investigation, Dru and Lake discover that Cabbagetown conceals a host of kidnapping suspects: a grocery store owner known as Santa to the children, a child molesting convict on parole, a greedy architect buying up all the property, and the slimy head of Child Protective Services. The bodies begin piling up as their investigation leads them to a slave trafficking ring. To the ring, the kidnapping is a game. Unfortunately, if they feel that Lake and Dru are on the verge of ending it, someone known as "The End Game" will kill the girls.

Not since Mary Higgins Clark's classic Where are the Children? have I read a more frightening novel about two missing children. Gerrie Ferris Finger's The End Game is a fast-paced, gripping mystery that is both heartbreaking as well as heartwarming. Most all of the action occurs during the span of one day. Dru and Lake are in a race against time to rescue the children before they are removed from Atlanta and flown out of the country. The End Game is nonstop action from its explosive beginning to its fiery end. It has children in peril, adorable canines, war veterans, nosy neighbors, insane villains, large alligators, fast trains and the historic landmarks of Hotlanta!

Dru is one of the most admirable female characters you will find in a mystery novel. She and her boyfriend Lake make an outstanding sleuthing team. The story is told in the first person as seen through the eyes of the lovely Dru. How can you not like someone whose job it is to find missing children? However, she does have a lot of help from other sources. One is a computer geek known as Webdog; this young, college man has an uncanny ability to hack into computers. Dru is very fond of a German shepherd, Buddy, and a Labrador Retriever, Jed; with their powerful noses; these heroic police dogs are able to follow the trail of the abducted sisters. Dru also seeks help from Billy, a young, legless Gulf War vet who will break your heart. Dru also interviews hobos who ride the trains entering and exiting the Cabbagetown yard. Despite her best efforts, the criminals always manage to remain one step ahead of her.

Reading The End Game made me want to revisit a good friend of mine who lives in Smyrna, Georgia. We often went into Atlanta and visited many of the locales mentioned in the novel. I've been to the Underground where I toured the World of Coca-Cola, walked around Piedmont Park and ate at the Park Tavern, hiked up Stone Mountain and watched 4th of July parades in Marietta. The next time I go to Atlanta, I'll have to visit the Oakland Cemetery and discover for myself if the tombstones are as spectacular as Finger describes them in her novel. I've driven by Margaret Mitchell's home but I never realized she was buried in Oakland Cemetery.

The End Game was an eye opening experience; I am grateful for having read it. First, it tore at my heart and made me more sensitive towards those less fortunate than me such as train-hopping hobos and disabled vets. I feel sympathy for a child who is raised by foster parents, either because one or more of the child's blood parents is imprisoned, deceased or otherwise incapacitated by addictions. I am thankful for having two loving parents who are still alive. Also, I never realized the slave trafficking of children presented such a dire problem in this country. Furthermore, you never know what sex predators lurk in your neighborhood. Unless you do a search on the Internet, you may not realize one lives down the street.

Having all the elements of a great mystery thriller, The End Game won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. In this, her debut novel, Gerrie Ferris Finger has brought to life a most remarkable heroine, Moriah Dru. I hope we haven't seen the end of her. She is one tough young woman who will risk her life to end the vicious games played by those who exploit innocent children. If you enjoy this novel, and I'm sure you will, I highly recommend Where are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark; instead of a million dollars, the kidnapper's motive is revenge and the heroine is the tormented mother who only has one day to find her missing children before a horrifying history repeats itself.

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