Tim, Scott, and Luke plan on spending their summer in their new tree fort, playing sniper with air rifles when Molly Peterson, a friend of Tim's sister, goes missing from a drive-in. While out in the woods, the three boys are sure they see Molly being held at gunpoint by her abductor. Detective Van Endel, who is in charge of the investigation, knows someone is lying to him and dismisses the claims as a cruel hoax. Tim, Scott, and Luke set out to clear their names and save the girl, while Detective Van Endel tries to find out where Molly was when she went missing and who was the last person to see her alive...
Unlike with the characters in this story, Aric Davis has no problem revealing the murderer/kidnapper to the reader early on. The moments with the killer were unsurprisingly the most disturbing; he's a rapist suffering from PTSD caused by his time in Vietnam. Molly's struggle for survival is heartbreaking and captor is terrifying. He is terrifying because he's delusional and because a part of him knows he's delusional and he acts on his impulses anyway.
Tim, Scott and Luke are realistically written. They might be kids who witnessed something terrible, but they're still kids. They aren't super-sleuths even though they've taken it upon themselves to find out who took Molly. They aren't going to the scene of the crime and pulling up clues, they're using a child's common sense. A creepy man will live in a creepy house. He's injured so he won't maintain his house: look of the creepy house with the un-mowed lawn... And as they try to narrow down their list of suspect, they begin to learn a secret about growing up.
"Why would an adult be so shitty at being an adult? It just didn't make any sense. His dad's leaving made no sense, and now Luke's mom, Emma, made no sense. It almost made him question adulthood in general. What if they're all just faking it? What if none of them has the slightest idea what they're doing?"
They begin to learn that even adults don't have all the answers.
My only complaint with this story, is that the police scenes are slow and foolish. At first it was little things about the way they spoke; Detective Van Endel greeting Molly Peterson's mom with a "my pleasure" like a missing child is no big deal and later advising her to take a Valium like his night job is pharmacology. But then it spans out to his use of a psychologist who doesn't appear to offer opinions on actual psychology but instead on "feelings". And when he interviews the three boys, he asked them what Molly was wearing...Only to tell them what Molly's mother said she was wearing. Even in the eighties, any detective worth anything would still have to worry about something like a false or fed testimony... Disbelieving the kids is one matter, telling them to tell you what you want to hear is another matter entirely.
I think this book would have been better if Davis had put a little research and a lot more effort into police and profiler procedures, but even without that effort the book was still pretty good. It was slow to start but hard to put down once the mystery got in full swing.