Readers will think they know what’s happening in John Burley’s thriller, The Quiet Child–but they are most likely to be wrong.

It’s a distubing story of the McCray family in small-town California of 1954. Already hanging on by a thread, teacher Michael McCray is struggling to handle his wife’s illness. The vibrant woman he loves has been struck by ALS, a ‘new’ disease with not a lot known about it at this time.

Danny, who doens’t speak, and his older brother, Sean, are both affected by the changes in their lives.Their situation is worsened by town gossip that Danny’s inability to speak is somehow responsible for illnesses in the town, even his own mother’s.

The two accompany their dad to pick up ice cream at the local grocery. Michael leaves Danny in the back seat of the car when the unthinkable happens: a man comes out of nowhere and tries to enter the car. Sean sees what’s happening and tries to stop the man and ends up being kidnapped, too, as the car roars off.

Sheriff Jim Kent has seen the situation before the kidnapping and worried someone in town would take drastic measures against Danny. Now he’s invovled with the two lead detectives in tryiing to find the boys.

It’s a horrendous situation all around with both boys missing. Everyone is suspicious of the parents, who are devastated. It will be difficult to discuss more of the plot without giving too much away. Suffice it to say that the ending is not what anyone is expecting on many levels.

With attention to little details that bring the setting into sharp relief, Burley’s latest is a haunting tale.