Daniel Palmer’s second novel, Helpless, joins a long list of thrillers featuring an innocent protagonist wrongly framed—but Palmer manages to give this old trope some fresh and unique twists. Former Navy SEAL Tom Hawkins moves back to Shilo, New Hampshire, after his ex-wife dies under suspicious circumstances. He hopes to raise their 15-year-old daughter Jill without disrupting her life anymore. But that’s not to be. First, Police Sgt. Brendan Murphy, a nemesis of Hawkins’ since their high school days together, tries to tie Hawkins to his ex-wife’s death. Then, rumors begin to float around that Hawkins, a high school guidance counselor and soccer coach, is involved with one of his players. And that’s when pornographic photos of teenage girls turn up on his work computer.
With the evidence mounting against him, and the FBI joining the investigation, Hawkins finds few friends willing to help him. His own daughter is unsure of whether to trust him. It’s up to Hawkins to prove his innocence using his Navy SEAL skills. And he’ll need them as he’s assaulted, drugged, and locked in a freezer—and that’s just for starters. Palmer, whose story includes “sexting” teenagers and social media bullying, as well as a discussion about how new technologies can be powerful tools for both crime and crime fighting, has written a lean, mean thriller that will hook you from the opening pages.