This is a thriller, a page-turner with a noir edge and elements of a romance woven in--but it is much more. The use of metaphor and the emphasis of aspects that reflect a theme raise it to the level of literary.
The theme on first blush is ineffable, and I will be struggling to put it into words as it is more of a strong feeling at this point. I would need a second read-through once I'm able to hold the entire story arc in my mind like a faceted jewel to do it justice.
I do not think in the tidy linear flow charts of rhetoric and dialectics. I think in images, both still and moving and both containing stories that I cannot explain short of telling them whole. It brings to mind this quote from Flannery O'Connor: “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.”
In a story, there is the difference between a character who is willing to grow, and one who is not. The passive story will fizzle like a dud firecracker while the active story will take off like a rocket breaking the bond of gravity. Both Ian Nash, the protagonist, and Aleece Medina, the FBI Agent in charge of the case who has the role of Ian's antagonist, are strongly active. Both are exquisitely drawn with clear motives that drive their actions, which are often at odds with each other. They often do aggravating, off-putting things that are easy to empathize with.
Once you are connected to them, you are connected to the heart of the story. Though their actions drive the story, it is who they are that makes you care enough to keep turning the pages. The action in and of itself is never enough to keep me involved. I need to care deeply about those who act and react to the onslaught of events and the repercussions of their actions.
Medina's actions grow out of her gut instincts, backed up by decades of experience. Ian's actions are rooted in his understanding of the theory of story and drama after years of academic study in the field of theater and his dissertation about the playwright David Mamet. Whenever he's confused by the actions of those around him, Ian pulls up a quote from Mamet or other writers that helps him sort it out and find a direction to aim his action.
Medina wants justice as defined by the law, but Ian wants revenge. It's easy to understand why, and some might agree it’s the way to go even though they themselves have never experienced the level of brutality Ian had. I rooted for him to snap out of it before he was further damaged by his own actions, which in his fantasy rose to an equivalent level of brutality.
The novel began with Ian being booted out of his dissertation program. Though it was partly campus politics that forced it, he'd probably have been protected from it if he'd had a strong dissertation in the works, but as he was told, he was not breaking new ground. I suspect that after the events in this story, he'd have an easier time writing a dissertation with the heart and originality his first attempt lacked because now, having used it to comprehend the traumatic events and contrive responses, he has real world visceral knowledge of the dry theory.
I've made it obvious that I was moved by this story and intensely intrigued. I want to reread it. It is gems like this one that keep me coming back to review.
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