Monday, March 16, 2015

LIFE OR DEATH :: Michael Robotham

Ten years ago, Audie Palmer pled guilty to taking part in an armored car robbery which left two robbers and one guard dead, another accomplice and seven million dollars in the wind. Audie himself was shot in the head and not expected to survive. But survive he did, and after spending ten years being beaten, stabbed and threatened in prison, Audie escapes the day before he's due to be released. Whuck? Crazy premise, right?

While it might sound crazy and unworkable, author Michael Robotham has served up a fantastic and plausible answer of a story in his new standalone thriller, Life or Death. Audie is billed as "the ultimate underdog hero" and I found that to be pretty spot on; I was rooting for Audie from the get-go.

As his run from the law and towards his purpose becomes fraught with increasing danger and additional obstacles, his motivation becomes clearer and the reader can't help but get caught up in the heart-breaking emotion of the chase and the past events that made it inevitable.

What could force a man to take such a bizarre path?  Could it be the seven million dollars Audie has always claimed he knows nothing about? His brother Carl, missing and presumed by some to be the robber who got away? Or something different altogether?

Audie is pursued by a varying cast of well-drawn characters, including Sheriff Ryan Valdez, the then-deputy who shot Audie 10 years prior, vertically-challenged FBI agent Desiree Furness, and others backed by nefarious forces. Each of his pursuers has information that sheds light on Audie's motives and impacts the outcome of one finding Audie before the others.

As the chase draws out and the charges against Audie mount, flashbacks to his past and the events that lead to his current out-of-character situation provide clues to the mystery. While I ultimately didn't find it too difficult to figure out, it didn't really matter or take away from the emotion of the chase or Audie's goals. Life or Death is a gut-wrenching story of life and love and what it means when an honorable man makes a promise.

STREET SENSE: A fantastic premise backed up by a story well-told and filled with great dialogue. Audie is a character I defy you to root against, and there's never a dull moment, in the chase or the story of Audie's past. I highly recommend Life or Death, as well as Robotham's Joseph O'Laughlin series.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  There's so much great dialogue here I couldn't decide, so went with one of my favorite descriptive passages:

He parks in the shade of a crippled elm with a gnarled trunk and roots that are pushing up the cement sidewalk like the world's slowest earthquake.

COVER NERD SAYS:  Minimalist but catchy, I liked the cover and the movement brought to it by the font. I'm not sure if it would have caught my eye in a bookstore if I didn't know it was written by Michael Robotham. But it is written by Michael Robotham, so even a brown paper bag would be enough to get money out of my pocket.



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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.

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