I am an eager Michael Robotham reader. In fact, he has a new book out TODAY, his latest in his clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin series, and I have it sitting on my kitchen table right this minute. That should tell you that when it comes to his Edgar-nominated novel, Life or Death, I had to read it for the second time in order to review it and rank it in the Literary Lunchbox countdown to the April 28 Edgar awards.
Reading a book for fun, or even fun and a quick review, is a pretty light-hearted affair. Reading a book for the Lit Lunchbox Edgars is more complicated, involving colored markers and little sticky flags. It’s very upsetting to forget a minor character’s name or be searching through the pages to find the perfect example of the point your trying to make. I liked the book the first time. On second reading, Life or Death definitely holds up. Totally nomination – worthy.
The book opens with a prison escape. Okay, you don’t really know it’s a prison escape, but that’s what it is. Audie Palmer is swimming for his life away from the Three Rivers Federal Correctional Institute. The catch is, he was due to be released the very next day. What would cause a man to risk 20 more years in prison, just to get out a day early? That question haunts the subsequent chapters, as the reader is exposed, little by little, to more information that explains what kind of man Audie is (a good one), what reason he has for making a midnight escape (an excellent one), and how hard the bad guys will work to bring him down (very, very hard).
Life and Death is replete with believable, interesting characters, including Audie himself; his best friend and cellmate Moss Webster; his brother Carl; Benita, the love of his life, hero cop Deputy Ryan Valdez; and one of my favorites ever, FBI special Agent Desiree Furness. Desiree is tiny but mighty, and even more important, she’s smart and she listen to her gut.
It’s a classic thriller of the “chase” type – can Audie accomplish his goal with so many people looking to hunt him down? The book is constructed from multiple perspectives, with overlapping layers, which can lead the unwary reader into rushing… but don’t. There are several shocking scenes along the way, and as a result, the final confrontation carries real threat. You fear the loved and innocent will die, because you’ve seen Robotham go there already.
Literary Lunchbox Edgar Ranking: Best Novel
- Life or Death by Michael Robotham