On first look, and perhaps the next several looks as well, The Dispatcher is a gritty story of revenge, of vigilante justice. It reads somewhat like an episode of CSI, Law and Order or Criminal Minds, if those were told from the perspective of a third person narrator, so that the audience knows what every party is thinking. Violence, action, and horrible people abound.
More than that, though, this book is a study in psychology and human nature. Jahn considers what humans are capable of doing when they feel their backs are to the wall. He also plumbs the emotion of love and what horrors can come out of it. None of the characters in this book come out of it without blood on their hands, whether literally or figuratively, but all of them, one could argue, and I do, are in some way motivated by love, and not love for themselves, but for someone else.
The opening sequence is definitely an attention grabber. It really made me think. I do not have kids, and have no interest in having any, but as I reader I try to put myself in the place of the characters as much as I am able to. Ian's love for his daughter is evident in the way he never gave up hoping she might be alive, despite the incredibly low and discouraging odds for the survival of abducted children. I wonder, though, whether it would be more painful to find out that your daughter had been dead all that time or that she was alive. Can you imagine the guilt you would feel that your daughter had been nearby all that time and you had given up the search and left her to whatever awful ministrations the kidnapper has been putting her through all of these years?
Incredibly tragic, too, is the character of Maggie Hunt. Even if she is rescued, how much hope is there for her now, really? She is 14, but having been kidnapped since she was 7, her mental development is stalled. Her only companion for years has been a grisly figment of her imagination. What capacity will she have for trust, for love?
If you enjoy seriously dark stories of murder and people pushed to their limits, Jahn's book may be for you. Be prepared, though, for an open ending. These always drive me crazy because I so much want to know!