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Onyx reviews: One Kick by Chelsea Cain
Reviewed by Bev Vincent, 06/08/2014
Chelsea Cain gives her series regulars, Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell,
a break (a permanent one? Cain has switched to a new publisher) for this brief, breezy
novel that represents the start
of a new series. The title derives from a quote from Bruce Lee, who says
that he doesn't fear a man who has practiced 10,000 kicks but rather a man who
has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
The book gets off to a
rollicking start with a cleverly crafted scene laden with ambiguity. Late at
invades a house where a young girl named Beth has been trained for years how to
fend off just such an assault. Who is this insular family and why do they live with
the constant threat that someone will come looking for them? The answer is not
at all what it first seems.
Inspired by the Bruce Lee quote, Cain dubs her protagonist Kick, real name:
Kathleen Lannigan. The story jumps ahead ten years after the prologue, introducing
readers to this twenty-one-year-old young woman with anger management and
intimacy issues, no visible means of support, and an obsession with
learning every form of self-defense known to mankind.
When she was six, she was kidnapped and held for five years before being
rescued by the FBI in a scenario reminiscent of the Elizabeth Smart story. She
is one of the minority who survive a stranger abduction, but once readers find
out what befell her during her years away from home, none will consider her
lucky. She is, naturally, obsessed with stories of other abducted children, and
the recent case of two missing boys taken just weeks apart has captivated her.
Kick is ever vigilant, hyperaware of her surroundings—or so she thinks.
She won't let anyone take her again, but she also shuns all the media attention
that arises every time another child goes missing. Reporters are constantly
hounding her for updates on the anniversaries of her rescue. Her mother has made
a cottage industry out of selling Kick's story over and over again. She
regularly gets letters from the Department of Justice when someone else is
prosecuted for accessing the exploitive videos that were made of her while in
captivity. The things she has endured have been ripped from the headlines—or
from an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She is never
allowed to forget what happened to her.
Because of her mother's craving for the limelight, Kick doesn't have much of
a relationship with her, and she has none with her father, who left a few months
after her return, for reasons that will become evident later in the novel. At
seventeen, she filed for emancipation. She remembers a time when she and her
sister were friends, but that's not the case any longer. Kick lives in an
apartment upstairs from her brother, a computer and tech whiz who is not at all
what he seems. He can do almost anything he wants on the internet, except
expunge the videos of Kick.
When a mysterious stranger named John Bishop, self-avowed former weapons
dealer, breaches her defenses, she resents him and the fact that he seems to
have access to every bit of information about her, deference from law
enforcement, and sufficient financial resources to accomplish whatever he and
his equally mysterious benefactor wants. He can summon helicopters, launch
police assaults, and spirit people away to island resorts at the drop of a hat.
He swaggers with self-confidence and women fall at his feet...or into his bed.
Bishop has secrets of his own, some of which Kick teases out of him as they
become reluctant allies on a mission, part of which involves Kick
reinvestigating some repressed memories. The most twisted element of the novel
is Kick's complex relationship with Mel, the man who abducted her and who she
thought of as a father during her captivity. The man is now dying in prison and
she's forced to confront him to gain information he has steadfastly refused to
divulge since his arrest—information crucial to finding the missing boys.
It's important to remember how old Kick is; otherwise, some of her behavior
may seem unbelievable. Given her terrible past, though, and her relative youth,
her brash and emotional reactions seem completely credible. An ordinary person
of her age isn't quite fully formed as an adult yet, and Kick is far from
One Kick isn't exactly YA—there's plenty of sex and violence—but
the book is decidedly less graphic than Cain's previous books. Perhaps this is
because the character and novel is being developed for television. The story
doesn't suffer from its lack of explicit, grotesque detail, however. It is a
thriller with plenty of action and enough twists to keep readers riveted to the
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