Tuesday, March 8, 2016


There was a time I used to cry, but that was another lifetime ago.

If Lisa Lutz is not yet a "must-read" author for you, she should be. There are plenty of writers out there who can change voice and emotion and genre, but I'm not sure anyone does it any better than Lisa.

She's written the Spellman series (get on that one, for real), which is a wonderful mystery series full of humor and yet not lacking for substantive relationships and emotion. Last year she wrote the amazingly complex (in structure, it read absolutely beautifully) How to Start a Fire, which was not only one of the most powerful relationship novels I've ever read, but one of my favorite reads of the year. Yet it, too, wasn't lacking for humor or mystery. It was similar batter, but an entirely different cake. No matter what recipe Lutz is cooking with, you'll want to eat that cake until you're nauseous. And I mean that in the most positive of ways.

Lisa has again switched gears and done something a bit different with her recipe. The Passenger came out a week ago today and it is a straight-up suspense thriller. And you will want to sit somewhere comfy with your Pepto, because this is one you won't want to put down.

Never mind the suspense thriller label. Lisa's cake will still kick your ass with humor and meaning (tiring of this analogy? If you're tiring of references to dessert items you're in the wrong damn place, my friend).

Here's the thing about Lisa Lutz. She is so masterful that, in the words of Bill Murray's Trip Harrison, "it just doesn't matter." It JUST. DOES. NOT. MATTER. She has the ability at any time, in any genre, to crush you and your emotional well-being like a bug.

In The Passenger, we meet Tanya Dubois not long after she finds her husband's dead body at the base of the stairs, dyes her hair, takes cash from her credit cards, demands a new identity from an unknown source over the phone, and takes off on the run.

It is soon apparent that this is not Tanya's first time running, nor is Tanya really Tanya. Who she is, where she came from, what set her on the run and why she's kept running are what Lutz cranks out in fine fashion through the course of the book.

Of course, nothing seems to come easy for Tanya, and we follow Lutz's protagonist through several iterations of "on-the-lam" persona. Each is different because Tanya (I'm calling her Tanya for ease of reference) has to become someone different in order to escape her past (which is niftily hinted at via email missives sent and received over the years). After each new identity, something or someone different forces Tanya to once again change colors and hit the road. I will tell you no more, and not much more need be said. This is one that brings everything to an emotional and satisfying conclusion. You'll want to get your hands on it.

STREET SENSE:  For fans of suspense dramas or thrillers, The Passenger has the added bonus of Lisa Lutz's humor and depth. And it's always fun to think about Lisa's titles, before, during, and after.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  I sat across from an older gentleman with the cloudy eyes of glaucoma. He smiled at what I imagined was the shadow of me. There was something comforting in knowing that I couldn't really be seen. Although no one had seen me in a long time.

Bonus passage!

I chose to run because I figured that would give me the best chance at something like living. And that's exactly what it was. Something like living.

COVER NERD SAYS:  I am a sucker for a dark road cover, so I was definitely the right audience for this one. It hits on all cylinders, from font to palette to fade-outs. This cover is evidence that you don't need a lot of bells and whistles or girls in coats or cats with spoons to evoke feeling and attraction in readers.

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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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