What Happened to the Bennetts

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Release Date: 
March 29, 2022
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Reviewed by: 

“Scottoline’s flawless plot twists create a reader’s bond with this scrambling, desperate dad with his newfound courage and hastily recruited allies.”

Lisa Scottoline’s thrillers are always tight, taut page-turners, packed with action and risk and suspense. In What Happened to the Bennetts, she crafts fresh intensity because of the powerful emotions at stake, reassembling like kaleidoscope pieces with every fresh scene.

The opening chapter presents a parent’s nightmare: Jason Bennett, a court reporter with a specialty in lip reading, is headed home with his wife and two kids in the family car after his daughter Allison’s lacrosse game. When a truck begins to tailgate them, he’s ready to pull over and get out of the way. Instead, a couple of men attempt to carjack them, and of course Jason yields—anything to keep his family safe!

But instead, despite the family’s scramble out of the car, one of the criminals fires at them, a shot that will be fatal Jason’s daughter. Before the Bennetts even have a chance to face what’s just happened, FBI agents scoop them up, convinced that the criminals are part of a dangerous gang of drug traffickers. And for the rest of the Bennetts to survive, they’ve got to enter witness protection. Right. Now.

Special Agent Kingston pounds the urgency into them: “A carjacking usually occurs for one of three reasons. Number one, the car is stolen to flee the scene of a crime. Number two, the car is stolen because it’s a specific make, as part of an auto theft ring. Number three, the victim is in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In this case, the FBI concludes, is option number one. Except that since one of the criminals killed the other during the attempt, there’s going to be a lie circulated that Jason Bennett shot the second criminal—and in a gang like this one, revenge will already be in motion.

So that’s enough pressure to put the family into hiding in a rural backwoods, with protection. But WITSEC doesn’t have what the family needs to process Allison’s death (they can’t even be at her funeral!) or deal with rumors circulating about them (Jason’s wife was having an affair). Let alone the emotional distress of Allison’s younger brother, who’s blaming himself and spiraling down rapidly.

It’s Jason’s point of view that carries the book, and his self-blame as the dad who should have been able to protect his daughter is enormous. He could spiral down, too—but he’s already shown his courage and devotion in many small ways, so when he takes things into his own hands, determined to confront the criminal gang and somehow get his remaining family members out of this nightmare purgatory, he’s acting from love and determination.

His suspicions soar sky high when he puts together his wife’s nearly accidental affair with the law team for the criminal consortium. She hadn’t even realized this . . . and now, Jason finds, “I couldn’t say another word. I couldn’t stay in the room with her.” Because it’s starting to look like there’s been nothing accidental in all of this, but the FBI isn’t “getting it,” and it’s up to Jason to find a way.

“I had to get back and tell Dom [an FBI agent] everything. My family wouldn’t be safe outside the program until the conspiracy had been exposed.”

Nothing’s really prepared Jason Bennett for this kind of mission. But he has the most powerful possible reasons for pursuing it. And Scottoline’s flawless plot twists create a reader’s bond with this scrambling, desperate dad with his newfound courage and hastily recruited allies.

Clear the calendar before you start reading; What Happened to the Bennetts is so good you may not want to put it down until the hard-won and well-earned finale.