By Heidi Simmons
The King Tides
by James Swain – Fiction
Professionals say that social media is doing more harm than good especially when it comes to kids. It is not only what kids say to each other, it’s the risqué images they post that can draw the older, and perverted who may exploit it. In James Swain’s thriller, The King Tides (Thomas & Mercer, 310 pages) under-aged children are stalked and preyed upon through secret apps and dark websites.
Jon Lancaster is an unlikely hero. He is disheveled, has a belly that sticks out and is prone to violence. A former Navy SEAL, cop and private investigator, he has turned his skills toward searching and finding missing children. As an unlicensed, independent operator, he proudly and effectively does not play by the rules.
Lancaster is hired to find out why men are stalking 15-year-old Nicki Pearl and stop them. Wherever Nicki goes, there are guys who seem to recognize her and check Nicki’s image on a smart phone as they try to get a closer look at the pretty young girl. There have been two attempted kidnappings — both foiled by Lancaster. Nicki and her parents are terrified.
Nicki appears to be a sweet, smart and innocent child, until Lancaster uncovers video of what looks like her taunting men and having sex. But Nicki swears it isn’t her! Digging deeper, Lancaster finds the source of the video and it involves the FBI.
Turns out Nicki’s estranged aunt, Beth Daniels is an FBI agent and she is shocked to discovery her niece is the target of an under age pornography ring. She and Lancaster team up to find the big fish and shut down the illegal child porn sharing enterprise.
Lancaster is rogue and fearless. Having no PI license, he is unrestricted from breaking down a door without a search warrant. He shoots at the bad guys and throws his weapon into the sea. Could he be arrested? Yes, if he’s wrong or caught, but Lancaster is rarely wrong and so far hasn’t been caught. Besides, he is willing to take that risk, which makes him very likable and heroic. His character is well connected with ex-SEALs and law enforcement. He knows who the corrupt cops are and how to work with those on the fringe.
The King Tides is the first of what is surely to be a successful “Lancaster and Daniels” series. Lancaster is based in south Florida, but working with FBI agent Daniels, they potentially will have many interesting cases across the country.
Daniels is also fascinating character. A hardworking and dedicated agent, she runs the FBI’s “Violent Crimes Against Children/Online Predator unit.” Abducted in college, she escaped, but has a personal quest to find the men who kidnapped her and got away. Now, it looks like they may be involved with the attempted kidnapping of Nicki and deliberately taunting Daniels.
This coincidence worked for me because Daniels looks like her niece Nicki. I also liked that Daniels is willing to do whatever it takes – get naked, have sex in front of co-workers and post it online — to bring the perverts down. Even when Daniels discovers her niece is the unintentional bait, it’s a risk she is willing to take.
I’m not sure there is much chemistry between the two unlikely friends, but they work together well as investigators and that makes for a fun dynamic. I liked how they come to earn respect for one another.
There was not much to learn from the story about the problems or challenges law enforcement have hunting down online predators. It’s always nice to get some insight into how criminals are found or arrested whether it’s statistical data or a tactical response.
In the story, Lancaster uses specialized software and trained dogs to help find a missing girl. He is able to access information that law enforcement can’t without a search warrant. I don’t know if the software really exists, or is just fiction. But, it would be nice to believe there are people smart enough, have sophisticated technology and the tenacity to bust those who prey on the young, the vulnerable and women.