Author: Dan Walsh
Title: What Follows After
Publisher: Revell

As is only to be expected from bestselling author Dan Walsh, What Follows After is a solid emotional thriller with a message.

After setting up the story in present day, and dropping several ominous hints about what’s to come, the setting flashes back to October 1962. On the eve of the Cuban missile crisis, Florida engineer Scott Harrison is trying to come to terms with a family crisis of his own: he and his wife are separated. This is the sixties, remember, when such a thing was a rarity, especially in Christian families. Gina thinks she has biblical grounds; Scott swears it was a misunderstanding.

As it turns out, marital issues are the least of their problems. While the rest of the country is focused on the looming threat of nuclear war, the Harrisons are faced with a disaster closer to home. Their two young sons, Colt and Timmy, have disappeared. To make things worse, when one of the boys is believed to be kidnapped, the Florida offices of the FBI are so focused on preparing for war with Russia they can barely spare anyone to investigate. Seen through jaded twenty-first century eyes, young Timmy’s predicament is even scarier than adults in the sixties seemed to realize, which only ratchets up the tension for the reader.

The story itself is compelling and the backdrop of the space race combined with the threat of World War III only makes it more so. Walsh paints his characters, even minor ones, in multiple layers. He gets inside the heads of numerous people, from the faith-filled black housekeeper who thinks of Scott’s family as her own to the dedicated FBI agent desperately trying to find one lost little boy to the creepy villain who . . . but that would be telling.

Back to Mamie Lee, Scott’s parents’ ‘help’, she and her friends were one of the highlights of the book. While saying much more would give away important plot points that are better left for the reader to uncover, their personalities and attitudes added genuine warmth to the story. Race relations in the sixties can be a tricky subject to tackle but here they are handled with grace.

Walsh has also co-authored several books with Gary Smalley (The Dance and The Promise) and it shows in the ‘teachable moments’ conversations between Scott and his brother-in-law. As always, the relationship principles are excellent and they are explained well, but this time the dialogue did not feel quite as organic as usual with this talented author. On the whole that was a minor blip on the radar.

What with the threat of war, NASA references (Scott’s job involves “building rockets”), a child in danger and a relationship on the verge of destruction, What Follows After has plenty that will appeal to both men and women. The relationship tips will be a bonus for couples who share a copy. But it’s not just a couples’ book; anyone who grew up in the Leave It to Beaver era (or watched reruns on TV) will enjoy this look back at the past and the story of What Follows After.

*Published 4/16/2014