By Robert A. Stevens

Mind Games by Alan Brudner is a well-intentioned but predictable yarn about a father’s search for his missing son. When Sky Lightman mysteriously disappears, his father Cliff suspects Sky’s employer, a baby-faced bespectacled software guru, of engineering the young man’s disappearance. Aided by an unusual partner, Cliff sets out to find his missing son.

By making his protagonist something of an everyman, Mr. Brudner has managed to avoid losing the reader by bogging the story down in technical jargon, while introducing just enough cyber-speak to make his tale believable. I was particularly impressed by the clever use of a life-like avatar of Cliff’s late wife as his partner in this quest.

Unfortunately, this book reads like a good first draft. The author got his idea and story line down on paper, but he should have gone back and fleshed it out, given it some depth. One flaw that particularly bothered me was that the characters’ actions sometimes seem disproportionate to their motivations. For example, Cliff suddenly grabs an old woman by the lapels of her housecoat when she says her daughter’s too tired to speak with him. Then he says, “Why not invite me in?” In that scene, Cliff behaves more violently than he should, while the old woman responds with less vehemence than we might expect, and then Cliff expects her to act as if nothing has happened. These inconsistencies continue right up to a final climactic scene that also left me wondering, why did he do that?