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Three Weeks To Say Goodbye

C J Box

New York Times bestselling author C J Box’s novels have been called “red hot,” “edge-of-your-seat reads,” and “unforgettable, powerful.”


Jack and Melissa McGuane have spent years trying to have a baby. Finally their dream has come true with the adoption of their daughter, Angelina. But nine months after bringing her home, they receive a devastating phone call from the adoption agency: Angelina’s birth father, a teenager, never signed away his parental rights, and he wants her back. Worse, his father, a powerful Denver judge, wants him to own up to this responsibility and will use every advantage his position of power affords him to make sure it happens. When Jack and Melissa attempt to handle the situation rationally by meeting face-to-face with the father and son, it is immediately apparent that there’s something sinister about both of them and that love for Angelina is not the motivation for their actions.

As Angelina’s safety hangs in the balance, Jack and Melissa will stop at nothing to protect their child. A horrifying game of intimidation and double crosses begins that quickly becomes a death spiral where absolutely no one is safe.

How far would you go to save someone you love?

Jack McGuane is a Travel Development Specialist for the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. His wife Melissa works at a local hotel. They’re a loving couple whose happiness is made complete when they adopt Angelina, a beautiful baby girl whose teen mother has chosen to give her up for adoption. Then one day their world is shattered. Jack gets a call from the adoption agency through which the McGuanes adopted Angelina. It seems that the child’s biological father never waived his parental rights and has decided to exercise them. At first, it seems like some terrible mix-up. But when the McGuanes’ adoption lawyer refuses to get involved, Jack McGuane knows something is going on.It turns out that Angelina’s biological father is eighteen-year-old Garrett Moreland, whose father John Moreland is a powerful local judge who fully intends to support his son. In fact, a few days later, both Morelands visit the McGuanes. During the visit, Judge Moreland offers to do everything in his considerable power to replace (as if that were possible) Angelina with another child. He even hints at bribery. Unmoved, the McGuanes refuse. Moreland then tells them that they have three weeks – 21 days – to surrender Angelina to the court.

Despite Judge Moreland’s explanation that Garrett is ready to be a father and that Angelina should be with “her family,” the McGuanes are quite sure that Garrett Moreland has no desire at all to be a father and that there is some other explanation for his sudden interest in Angelina. So they decide to do whatever they can to prevent the Morelands from taking their child.

With help from Jack’s friend Detective Cody Hoyt and another detective, Jason Torkleson, the McGuanes slowly begin to find out some disturbing truths about the Moreland family. The more they learn, the more frightening becomes the prospect of releasing Angelina to that family. So the McGuanes and their friends prepare to do whatever is necessary to keep Angelina. But the Morelands are a force to be reckoned with, and there’s a lot at stake here. So “whatever is necessary” takes Jack McGuane into territory he never imagined. In the end, the McGuanes’ desperate efforts to keep their daughter safe end up leading them to do things they never would have dreamed. One of the most important elements in this novel is the highly-charged suspense and sense of urgency. Part of that comes from the fact that the story is told from Jack McGuane’s point of view. He loves his daughter more than anything, and we feel his sense of desperation as the time to relinquish her gets closer and closer. The suspense also comes as we learn about the Moreland family and what they are capable of doing and willing to do. At each turn in the novel, the stakes get higher as the McGuanes and their friends find themselves in more and more danger. What’s especially effective is that the danger is not melodramatic; it’s entirely believable. The pacing and timing of the novel also adds to the suspense. The action happens quickly and we really do not know what’s going to happen next.Another important element in the story is the set of characters. We care about Jack and Melissa McGuane. We hurt for them as they are faced with the awful possibility of losing their child. Perhaps it’s because I’m an adoptive parent myself, so your mileage, as the saying goes, may vary. But this couple and their heart-wrenching situation are absorbing and compelling. It’s hard not to sympathise with them. We see the havoc wrought on their marriage, too, as the time to relinquish Angelina gets closer, and that only makes them more human.

There’s a set of very interesting and thought-provoking questions raised in the novel. Just how far should a person go to right a wrong? How much is one willing to do to protect one’s family? What about the taking of the law into one’s own hands? Is that ever right? Those aren’t easy questions to answer and the novel doesn’t pretend to do so. But it does raise them, so there’s plenty of “food for thought.”

A thriller that explores a very human drama, Three Weeks to Say Goodbye also asks some tough questions and examines what happens when people with frightening and ugly skeletons in their proverbial closets get into power.

Review by Margot Kinberg, Confessions of a Mystery Writer

About C J Box:

Edgar Award-winning author C.J. Box is the author of eleven novels including the Joe Pickett series. He's also won the Anthony Award, Prix Calibre 38 (France), the Macavity Award, the Gumshoe Award, and the Barry Award. His short stories have been featured in America's Best Mystery Stories of 2006 and limited-edition printings. 2008 novel BLOOD TRAIL was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin (Ireland) Literary Award.Box is a Wyoming native and has worked as a ranch hand, surveyor, fishing guide, a small town newspaper reporter and editor, and he co-owns an international tourism marketing firm with his wife Laurie.

Box lives in Wyoming.

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