Updated: Sep 1, 2020
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up Annabel Lee, by Mike Nappa. The cover, with a creepy photograph of a staircase to a dark basement and the jagged font denoting the title, a hint at a line from an Edgar Allen Poe poem, made me think this could possibly be a horror book. But, as most people would tell you, "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover."
Diving in, I began to get sucked into the first-person narrative of 11 year-old Annabel Lee Truckson, growing up in the redneck country near Peachtree, Alabama, along with her vivid description of her "Uncle Truck", as everyone called him, and his seemingly vicious German Shepherd.
When Uncle Truck's farm is attacked by mercenaries, Annabel is forced to go into hiding alone, with only her guard dog for company. I found it interesting that in her narrative, she often lapses into using phrases with incorrect grammar that she's heard the locals say, ("ain't", for example) then corrects herself, because, as her Uncle Truck has told her, "she's educated" and she's not supposed to talk that way. Along the way, Annabel finds a journal that contains secrets about her real identity and the reason why her uncle has gone to such great lengths to educate her in many languages and to prepare a hiding place in advance of the trouble that he anticipated would surely come calling one day.
This saga was juxtaposed, alternately, with chapters in two different third-person narratives-- that of a voiceless man known as "The Mute", and the other of a 30 year-old private detective named Trudi Coffey, working together with her ex-husband and partner Sam Hill to find Annabel and rescue her.
The Mute, despite not being able to speak, always found a way to communicate what he needed to. Being ex-military special-ops, he was a highly-skilled combatant, extremely intelligent, and always able to think on his feet. He had served with Truck in Iraq before losing his voice on the battlefield, and his devotion to Truck's niece showed he would do anything to protect her.
Sam Hill has connections to Truck through his work with the CIA. When Annabel is no longer safe, it's up to him and Trudi to deliver to The Mute the key and secret code put into his safeguard that will allow Annabel to be found and rescued. There's an obvious sexual tension at play between Sam and Trudi as they work together to outsmart the bad guys and get to The Mute and Annabel, but because of their history, there are some barriers to their getting back together. Nevertheless, the two make a kickin' team, and I can't wait to see them in action in the next two Coffey & Hill mysteries that follow this one.
Overall, I found Mike Nappa's suspenseful tale about young Annabel to be gripping. It kept me on the edge of my seat wanting more, until it reached it's satisfying conclusion.