Warren Patabendi

399Novel / 273 pages / 1st Printing edition (1999)

ISBN: 0967460808

Some people go for horror with scary monsters, mutated insects, nameless evils. Some people go for horror with scary people — the real monsters to watch out for. Alfred Hitchcock had it down to an art form; nothing is more frightening than the things human beings are willing to do to each other. Want some horror like that? The Removal is that kind of a scare.

The Finch family has it made. The parents are very much in love. They have two intelligent, talented grown children. They are in money up to their eyeballs. What could possibly go wrong?

They met Stuart’s new buddy Edmund — and nothing was ever going to be the same again.

Funny how it was all downhill after Edmund became a permanent fixture. Jim and Elizabeth Finch thought they had endured the worst pain imaginable when their son Stuart died in a tragic accident at their mountain lodge. Now, Edmund is about to marry their daughter, and Jim has his doubts about his daughter’s new fiancĂ© and about the “accident” that killed his son. If any of his suspicions are correct, the real suffering is only beginning.

The Removal is a harrowing story of deception, danger, and derangement. When Jim Finch decides to take matters into his own hands, it’s difficult to determine where the madness begins. When does wrong become right — if ever?

Patabendi has a way with fear. Even in the seemingly innocuous first scene there is a chill and a hint of the outrage to come. Never is there a moment to relax; the tension is powerful throughout the book. There is a bit of unravelling in the closing pages, some leaps of faith we are asked to make, but nothing that shatters the icy hold of the story.

The author writes as a person who has witnessed these events and survived to tell. There’s a good reason for that: Patabendi is a member of the Stillwater Committee. If that name means nothing to you, then you aren’t alone. The Stillwater Committee is a private group that investigates unsolved crimes — in this case, a disappearance.

When an illegal immigrant residing in Canada vanished, the members of Stillwater were called in. The case remains unsolved, but The Removal is the group’s version of what may have occurred. The next case to appear in novel form from Patabendi is the JonBenet Ramsey murder.

The Removal raises some strong questions about the actions of people involved in a murder case. The Stillwater Committee is a group of private individuals, stepping in to seek justice where the law enforcement officials have failed. In the book, Jim Finch decides to do the same thing. Is either action justified? And, what does this say about the quality and effectiveness of criminal investigations by “authorised” law enforcement agencies?

It’s a sobering thought. Reading The Removal may cause you to question your own safety and the precepts we live by. Oh, it will scare you, but the full impact may go much deeper.