Scrawny, gap-toothed 11-year-old Tommie is only acting on a dare from her friends when she approaches David Lamb, a 54-year-old in the grip of a mid-life crisis who has just buried his father.
While asking for a cigarette, her ignorant confidence is shaken when he pretends to abduct her, to scare some sense into her before taking her home.
But a bond is forged and David’s spurious decision leads to a horrifically skewed exploration of the old American Dream.
US writer Bonnie Nadzam’s debut novel is, quite simply, a page-turner.
It’s hard to avoid comparisons with Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita due to its themes, but the omnipresent narration is perfectly unsettling, giving hints of past and future events and casting dark hints on interpreting the present.
Despite David’s surname, Tommie is the real lamb, and his manipulation of her gullibility is chilling to read and the suspense is as gripping as the minimalist style.