What Happened to the Bennetts Summary and Reviews

What Happened to the Bennetts

by Lisa Scottoline

What Happened to the Bennetts by Lisa Scottoline X
What Happened to the Bennetts by Lisa Scottoline
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  • Published Mar 2022
    400 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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Book Summary

Jason Bennett is a suburban dad who owns a court-reporting business, but one night, his life takes a horrific turn. He is driving his family home after his daughter's field hockey game when a pickup truck begins tailgating them, on a dark stretch of road. Suddenly two men jump from the pickup and pull guns on Jason, demanding the car. A horrific flash of violence changes his life forever.

Later that awful night, Jason and his family receive a visit from the FBI. The agents tell them that the carjackers were members of a dangerous drug-trafficking organization - and now Jason and his family are in their crosshairs.

The agents advise the Bennetts to enter the witness protection program right away, and they have no choice but to agree. But WITSEC was designed to protect criminal informants, not law-abiding families. Taken from all they know, trapped in an unfamiliar life, the Bennetts begin to fall apart at the seams. Then Jason learns a shocking truth and realizes that he has to take matters into his own hands.

Sometimes justice is a one-man show.

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Media Reviews

"Explosive new complications in the most relentless of all her mysteries. A high-octane thriller whose hero is tossed into one impossible situation after another. Best started early in the morning." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[H]eart-wrenching...a high-speed, action-packed thriller...Scottoline's fans will get their money's worth." - Publishers Weekly

"Scottoline's gift for crafting human connections is displayed here...setting this thriller apart from other suburban-hero stories. A good choice for Greg Hurwitz and Harlan Coben fans." - Booklist

"Twisty, propulsive and exhilarating. From this novel's first pages, Scottoline caroms us into a heart-throttling journey as the Bennett family must navigate both urgent dangers and their own complicated pasts—all while the clock ticks. What Happened to the Bennetts left me dazzled and breathless." - Megan Abbott, author of The Turnout

"In What Happened to the Bennetts, Scottoline thrusts the reader into one family's living nightmare—and their long, nail-biting battle to return to some sense of normalcy." - Riley Sager, author of Survive the Night

This information about What Happened to the Bennetts was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Make this a movie
Loved this book! Pretty quick read. Sad, gripping, a few twists. Did not want to put it down. Would love to see this made into a movie.??


Nail-Bitingly Suspenseful and Deeply Moving
"What Happened to the Bennetts" gets off to an explosive and tense start on the very first page. Bestselling author Lisa Scottoline's inspiration for the story came from being tailgated, an experience that caused her to wonder what could happen should being followed serve as the prelude to a carjacking. She opted not to speed up because she was enjoying the drive in a wooded area of Pennsylvania, near her home. So as the story opens, the Bennetts, an unremarkable American family living in southeastern Pennsylvania. Jason operates his own court reporting business and his wife, Lucinda, is a photographer. They are en route home from daughter Allison's soccer game in Jason's recently purchased Mercedes. Allison is in the back seat with her younger brother, Ethan, and the family dog, Moonie, when Jason notices a pickup following their vehicle too closely on the single-lane road that winds uphill through the woods. Like Scottoline, Jason has no room to maneuver his vehicle over in order to permit the pickup to pass. Also like Scottoline, Jason does not want to accelerate, because he feels he has a right to drive as he sees fit. He resists his family's urging to speed up and "smoke" the pickup with his powerful new car. Eventually, though, he relents and as he accelerates, so does the pickup, passing the Bennetts' car, pulling in front of it, and then stopping, blocking the road. Two men jump out of the pickup, brandishing weapons, and inform Jason, "We're taking the car." The carjacking ends tragically.

Reeling, the Bennetts return to their home after meeting with local authorities, who theorize that the carjackers were looking for a getaway vehicle after committing a double homicide. And the Bennetts were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are shocked to find FBI agents on their doorstep at 3:15 a.m. Agents Dom Kingston and Michael Hallman explain that the two assailants were members of GVO, a crime syndicate that distributes and sells opiates, and had just killed two retail-level drug dealers in the organization. The Bennetts are now in the cross-hairs of GVO. Because their lives are in danger, they need to enter the witness protection program for their safety and well-being. Immediately.

Scottoline effectively relates the story from Jason's point of view, utilizing a first-person narrative. The FBI explains to the family that they will be under the watchful eyes of the FBI twenty-four hours per day in a safe location, but "there can be no communication" with their family, friends, employees, neighbors or friends. Lucinda's inability to continue caring for her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and resides in a care facility, is particularly distressing. They will not even be permitted to attend a close family member's funeral. They must simply vanish. After a family meeting, they reluctantly come to the conclusion that, although the FBI cannot force them to enter the program, they do not really have any other option. Jason explains, "We left our lives in silence. . . . We'd had fifteen minutes to pack, . . . Deep inside me was the most profound sorrow I had ever known, one that had settled in, unpacked, and took up residence."

Scottoline was surprised to learn that the FBI would probably hide the Bennetts somewhere in Delaware. Jason shares Scottoline's shocked reaction when he learns he and his family are being transported to the Delaware coast, just outside a beach town that is largely deserted during the off-season. The safe house is adjacent to a saltwater tidal marsh and the surrounding houses are mostly vacation homes, closed until the summer season begins. Agents Kingston and Hallman (affectionately known as Wiki, because of his encyclopedic knowledge about many topics) reside in a smaller home on the same lot that houses their command center. Jason quickly learns there are cameras mounted everywhere, including in the trees, and the agents will maintain round-the-clock surveillance as part of their "Babysitter's Club" assignment. Jason soon bonds with Dom (Agent Kingston) as they jog together and Dom explains the circumstances that prompted him to transfer out of an undercover assignment. Most importantly for purposes of Scottoline's tautly-crafted story, Jason gradually comes to trust Dom, believing that the agent's only priority is keeping him and his family safe.

The marshlands surrounding the safe house are dark, slippery, and mysterious, and Jason relates how any solid ground he once felt beneath his feet has been ripped away from him. But he is determined to keep his family safe, no matter the cost.

In the absence of facts, the Bennetts' friends, neighbors, and business associates begin speculating about what has become of them. They take to social media to commiserate and seek answers, and Lucinda's best friend lodges a missing persons report with the police. Rumors and theories swirl, and Jason discovers a website maintained by an amateur sleuth who bills himself as "America's premier citizen detective." He is convinced that Jason murdered his family and went on the run, which only adds to Jason's misery . . . and determination.

Scottoline compassionately describes the emotional devastation that Jason and his family feel about the prospect of leaving their lives behind and starting over in every conceivable way. It is especially difficult for young Ethan, who keeps asking about his friends and when they will be going home. Lucinda came from a well-off family, but Jason had a modest upbringing on a farm near Hershey, Pennsylvania. Jason completed one year of law school before dropping out for financial reasons. In combination with what he has learned during his years as a court reporter, he knows more about legal procedure than most non-lawyers. But the one topic that has never come up during all of the depositions he has transcribed is the witness protection program. He quickly discovers that it was not really designed to shelter innocent witnesses to crimes. Rather, most of the "applicants" are criminals who have entered into plea agreements under the terms of which they provide evidence against other perpetrators in exchange for the opportunity to slip into the kind of new lives Jason and his family want no part of.

So even though they have been warned about engaging in any online behavior that might reveal their whereabouts and jeopardize their security, Jason utilizes his legal prowess to begin researching the carjackers and their connections to other criminals, especially GVO. And decides that he and his family are not going to simply give up their lives and relationships. Jason is bent on unraveling the mystery so that his family's attackers and anyone with whom they conspired can be brought to justice . . . and the Bennetts can reclaim their lives.

At that point, Scottoline takes readers along as Jason undertakes a rogue, action-packed search for the truth and to ensure that justice is served. His dangerous journey is filled with shocking revelations -- some heartbreaking -- along with surprising plot twists, and numerous near-misses. Scottoline introduces a cast of intriguing supporting characters along the way, both friend and foe, as she gradually reveals that what initially appeared to be a random carjacking was anything but.

At its core, What Happened to the Bennetts is a richly emotional rumination on marriage, parenting, betrayal, and forgiveness. Scottoline illustrates that Dylan Thomas was, to a certain extent, right. If you are able to go home again, you will find that home has most changed during your absence. But more importantly, you will definitely have changed. So after all that they have lost, and everything they have endured, the Bennetts cannot simply return to their home and pick up where they left off.

The Bennetts are fully developed and relatable characters who are yanked by tragedy out of the sameness and complacency of their very ordinary day-to-day existence. Circumstances force them to address their assumptions, the things they have taken for granted, and evaluate whether their marriage can and should survive the mistakes they have made. Ultimately, Scottoline says the book is about both "the triumph of an individual and also the triumph of a family when they work together to deal with the most horrible thing they can imagine happening to them."

And what is better than a relentlessly fast-paced, nail-biting, and deeply moving story about family, love, and justice? If told by the incomparable Scottoline, absolutely nothing. What Happened to the Bennetts is Scottoline at her best and that is very good indeed. It is thoroughly engrossing, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.

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Author Information

Lisa Scottoline Author Biography

Lisa Scottoline is a #1 bestselling author, New York Times bestselling author and Edgar award-winning author of 33 novels, including Eternal, her first-ever historical novel.

She also writes a weekly column with her daughter Francesca Serritella for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled "Chick Wit" which is a witty and fun take on life from a woman's perspective. These stories, along with many other never-before-published stories, have been collected in a New York Times bestselling series of humorous memoirs including their most recent, I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses, and earlier books, I Need A Lifeguard Everywhere But The Pool; I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places; Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?; Have a Nice Guilt Trip; Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim; Best Friends, ...

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Name Pronunciation
Lisa Scottoline: scotto-leany

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