Return of the Prodigal Son continues the saga of the Lassiter family. Years ago, the family was devastated by the death of the father Riordan, a cop killed in the line of duty. Each of them was affected in a different way, but perhaps the most poignant was the middle child, Donovan.
Now in his thirties, Donovan has retired from the CIA having tired of being one of the planetís cops. He has a publisher interested in a book about international crime and has retreated to a remote area to write it. His seclusion is interrupted by the arrival of ďChamp,Ē his old college roommate who needs a big favor.
Champís sister Andi is a widow with two children, Taylor and Cory. Her husband and his business partner died in a small plane accident a year ago. Following the accident, investigators revealed that millions of dollars had been embezzled from clients of his firm, and efforts to trace the funds had been unsuccessful. There were suggestions that Andi had been involved and now knows where the money is. More importantly, Cory and Taylor had also borne the brunt of criticism from their peers, in the form of taunting, accomplished most viciously by children.
Champ wants Donovan to investigate in an effort to hopefully clear the name of his brother-in-law; and to allow Andi and kids to move into the cottage next door to Donovan. Reluctant to surrender his privacy, Donovan nevertheless agrees to both requests.
Ruth Langan has created wonderful characters that will evoke empathy from readers. And the age of her characters seems to make no difference. She spans the spectrum from 5-year-old Taylor to the grandfather Kiernan Donovan who has helped hold the family together.
However, the suspense portion of the book is relatively bland. Donovanís investigation is almost entirely limited to his fingers walking across the computer keyboard. In addition, the technique of foreshadowing is used quite often, but when done it lacks subtlety, at times so obvious that the climax is almost a foregone conclusion.
On the personal level Donovan is still fighting his childhood pain from the loss of his father and the story focuses on his road to redemption. He sees himself in the anger Cory manifests and Andi and her children guide Donovan back to wholeness. In theory the concept works, however, there are few incidences of interaction to convince readers that a lifetime of anger can be so easily erased.
The same criticism applies to the romance between Andi and Donovan, just hovering on the edge of credibility, but the superb characters will make it more than acceptable to many readers.