For 26 years, Allen Carmichael has kidnapped children. The former Vietnam vet has devoted his life to whisking women and children away from abusive husbands and homes and into safe new lives. Now ready to retire to Folly Island with his lover, Rae (the protagonist of King's Folly), he's having trouble breaking free from his last case—and vice versa.

Jamie O'Connell, the 12-year-old motherless boy Allen snatched from his abusive father and placed with a Montana farm family, may not be out of harm's way just yet. And Allen needs all those intuitive jungle instincts that got him through a tour of duty in Vietnam to know who to trust.

Like Folly, KEEPING WATCH departs from King's more traditional Mary Russell/Kate Martinelli mysteries. Equating the war Allen fought with the one Jamie fights at home, King presents a sweeping narrative that goes from the Vietnam jungles of the '60s to the present-day Pacific Northwest, and the suspense gradually percolates.

Her unflinching descriptions of violence on the front lines and on the home front disturbingly depict the cost of brutality, especially on children. Eerie and engaging, this novel vividly captures the complex psychological motivations of damaged people. (Mar., 385 pp., $23.95)

Reviewed by: 
Diane Snyder