From my staid middle-class perspective, crime stories always happen to someone else. Part of the fascination with mystery novels, police procedural movies and TV series is that they represent an alien world that I have no experience of navigating. Courtrooms, the reading of Miranda rights, handcuffs, cells – these are beyond my everyday life. The same is true of Dana Halter and her boyfriend Bridger Martin. When Dana is arrested after a routine traffic stop they are at a loss. Surely someone realizes that respectable teacher Dana could not possibly have committed the multi-state crime spree of which she is accused?
Dana’s profound deafness adds to her problems as she struggles to get the police to understand her. Dana is arrested on Friday morning, which is apparently a terrible time to be arrested if you need records proving your innocence faxed in from out-of-state. Dana goes to jail for the weekend before they discover that the photos on the initial charges clearly show a man. Who is he? Is it a strange coincidence that they have the same name and birth date? Not at all! He is an identity thief.
Despite clearly being a victim, it is now up to Dana to clear up the tornado the thief has whirled through her life and prove her innocence to everyone else. First she has to get her car back from the police impound, with an $800 charge that she has no choice but to pay. Then her boss at a school for the deaf accuses her of tarnishing the school’s reputation by going to jail. Then the calls from collection agencies and angry creditors start. The police will do nothing to find the thief because they claim that the identity theft is a “victimless crime.” Things are looking bleak for Dana. As a deaf person Dana has put up with condescension, ignorance and contempt all her life. She will not take any more and she needs justice! But she doesn’t know how to proceed. Then a hectoring collection agent calls about an overdue cell phone bill. Bridger gets the thief’s cell phone number, and could it possibly lead them back to the thief?
Abruptly the point of view changes to the thief. We find him living a great life on other people’s money with an exotic girlfriend, an ostentatious luxury car and the leisure to cook gourmet meals on his stolen granite countertop in his lavish condominium. When the thief learns that the real Dana Halter might know where he lives he plans to run, a stunt he has pulled many times before. A game of cat and mouse ensues all the way across the country. Will Dana and Bridger find the thief? Will they be okay if they do? We know the thief has a predilection for violence without remorse.
The plot rockets along in this tense novel. Readers who don’t usually like suspense will be drawn in by Dana and Bridger’s ordinariness and how things can go so wrong, so fast through no fault of their own.
I’m going straight home now to get a credit check run.
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