Palmer asks, “What would you do to save a loved one?” and turns it into a paranoid and shocking thriller. The characters are three-dimensional, and the storyline balances the line between believability and “unlikely.” This is Palmer’s third novel, and he already exhibits the skills of a master craftsman. Fans of Harlan Coben or Lisa Gardner will adore his look into the lives of an everyday couple.
John Bodine and Ruby Dawes barely scrape by, but Ruby is going to school, and they both hope their money problems will end when she graduates. When she learns that she has cancer and that their insurance won’t cover treatment, John takes drastic action, assuming another person’s identity to get the coverage they need. Soon the victim calls them, and instead of reporting them to the police, forces them to play a game with deadly consequences if they don’t participate. (Kensington, May, 332 pp., $25.00)