Dangerous Games

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

By most measures, Jack Liffey's life is a mess. He cannot seem to sustain a long- term relationship with a woman, despite his best efforts. When his teenage daughter Maeve finally gets to visit him, she ends up in surgery, as the chance target of a neighborhood shoot- out. He has long since given up his good job in aerospace engineering for the shaky finances of a private investigator. Nonetheless, when yet another young woman disappears—this time Luisa, the lovely niece of his police officer fiancee Gloria—he agrees to hunt for her, because that is what he does. He finds missing children.

The trail starts at the tiny Paiute reservation where Luisa grew up. After meeting the girl's psychotic stepfather, it is clear to Jack and Gloria that she had good reason to run away. Sadly, in Luisa's case the fantasy of discovery by Hollywood has morphed into that of becoming a porn star. Luisa's high school friend gives them a couple of leads to follow, which propel Jack's search through an increasingly bizarre cross-section of small-time "entrepreneurs." The porn trade, he discovers, is not the only industry dangerous to beautiful, naive young women.

Meanwhile, he has to deal with the aftermath of Maeve's injury. With the vitality of youth, she is not only recovering, but upbeat. Jack, however, is haunted by his need to avenge the shooting. At first appalled by the young attacker's incoherence and lack of any motive, Jack finds his own attitude...

(The entire section is 422 words.)