I don’t usually write mid-week like this, but I felt I must do so today for a couple of reasons. It is cool, overcast and windy today, feeling more like October than mid-August. I've got a cup of tea in front of me, and I’ve just finished reading a book that is due to hit the Canadian bookstores the first week of October. Since I felt this was more than a coincidence, I felt I had to write something about this book now.
Although it hasn’t been officially released, I have a review copy of Michael Robotham’s latest title, a standalone thriller set in Texas called Life or Death, and I can tell you that I read it in three days – it took me that long to finish because I had to force myself to stop occasionally to do such things as eat and sleep. This novel tells the story of Audie Palmer, a man imprisoned for ten years for his involvement in an armed robbery during which four people were killed. He was shot in the head and not expected to survive, but he did. Now, on the day before he is to be released from prison, he escapes. The next 400 pages explains why he did this, and we as readers are pulled along on this roller-coaster ride that will have you staying up late into the night to read “just one more chapter”. Filled with complex characters, plots that twist and turn on every page while remaining believable, and language that can capture the essence of an idea or create whole scenarios in very few words, this novel is sure to win fans where they may not have existed before. Australian writer Robotham gave up his career as a newspaper reporter and began ghostwriting before venturing into the world of writing under his own name. One of his first ghostwriting projects was Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys, a British social worker who, in the mid-1980s, began investigating the forcible relocation of poor British children to Australia, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries. This book was made into a film, “Oranges and Sunshine” in 2011. Ten years ago, he wrote his first mystery thriller, The Suspect, which is one of my favourite suspense novels. He followed with one book each year, all of them featuring either Professor Joseph O’Loughlin or Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz, or sometimes both. If you recall, last autumn I wrote a post about his latest O’Loughlin/Ruiz book, Watching You, which was excellent. Well, this book is every bit as good as his previous ones. Different setting. Different characters. Same great writing and intense plotting. This novel is thrilling, suspenseful and heartwrenching, all at the same time. Robotham has a gift for creating complex plots with real characters that will keep you breathlessly turning pages until the very last word. I’ve been reading his books for years, but I guess he is not very well known, even in his native Australia (I thought he was British – shame on me!) This book, as Robotham explains on his website (http://www.michaelrobotham.com/index.asp?pagename=books+life+or+death), was based on a story he read in the newspaper 20 years ago, about a man who served a long prison sentence and escaped on the day before he was due to be released. He claims to have been thinking about this case for the past 20 years, and has finally found the courage and skill to write the story. I wondered why he set this one in Texas - perhaps to draw in the North American market? I found his use of colloquial language and spelling a bit over-the-top at first, but I quickly got into the rhythm of the language and stopped noticing his use of “sumpin’” for “something”, and other such terms. I would highly recommend getting your name on the Holds’ list at your local library if you like reading complex, suspenseful, psychological thrillers that are difficult to put down and leave you wishing for more.
Bye for now…