The whole point of reading thrillers is to live vicariously exciting lives through the characters in the books. Authors like Dumas and Ludlum take it a step further and have created characters in their books that escape their fictional lives for new ones as they take the reader along with them. That is the author's goal here, and he does a commendable job of it.
Ryan Butler is an unhappy corporate attorney in an unhappy marriage – a man who is only pretending to be alive. At the urging of his class-fixated wife, he is slogging his way towards a partnership in his fusty Main Line firm when his life takes a turn into the sinister. He learns that an old friend and baseball teammate is in an extraordinary type of coma, and this old friend's gorgeous wife is in need of his help in many ways.
Butler is bumped off a life course he has regretted and rues and readily lets himself be drawn into an adventure to save his friend, as well as complete strangers, and, perhaps, himself. His journey of escape leads him from the East Coast to the West, and on to the Midwest, and finally to a Caribbean isle where the barkeeps might keep secrets darker than their rum.
As Butler goes further off path, he loses track of who he can trust: his government, his wife, his friend's wife, the police. So, the plot readily builds in tension from page to page and brings the reader along for the ride.
The author obviously likes his characters, human flaws and all, and consequently, so does the reader. (Butler engages in some ethically challenged behavior; but who wants a perfect hero?) Lubitz keeps the action quickly apace but rolls up the story with a not-so-tidy ending, leaving readers with another mystery: what will become of his remaining characters? For that, he announces that a sequel in the works.
This fascinating thriller wonders: What if you couldn’t tie your shoes, walk down the street or save your own life without being told to do so?
Heading home from a work-related trip, Ryan Butler, a Philadelphia attorney, gets stuck in gridlock outside Baltimore and opts for a detour through the Maryland countryside. After making a wrong turn during a passing thunderstorm, he finds himself driving through a small town that seems vaguely familiar. Cruising down the picturesque streets hoping to get directions, Ryan notices an insurance agency sporting a name from his past: Steve Shannon. He takes this ordinary coincidence as an opportunity to catch up and maybe even revive their diminished friendship. Ryan doesn’t know, though, that misfortune just struck Steve’s family, leaving his new wife in financial turmoil. After Ryan discovers that something similar happened to a man in California, he’s doubly determined to find out exactly what happened to Steve. He tosses aside his burgeoning law career in order to further investigate the curious incidents. The impetuous decision may have inadvertently led Ryan into the middle of a CIA coup and a national security breech at the hands of a defected government agent who threatens the safety of the United States. The intriguing storyline moves at breakneck speed over the course of a few weeks, beginning with a captivating preface that will immediately seize the reader’s attention. Comfortable, simple language allows for easy concentration on the story without overthinking, even as nostalgia creeps in when the story, set in 1986, references outdated items like phone booths and microfilm projectors, which older readers might appreciate. However, despite the virtues, ham-fisted transitions and awkward syntax create a somewhat unpolished narrative.
The solid, well-grounded premise overcomes its imperfect presentation.
Set in 1986, Lubitz’s competent series kickoff introduces lawyer Ryan Butler, a former baseball prospect. On track to be named partner at a prestigious Philadelphia firm, Ryan is increasingly estranged from his wife and alienated by his work. One day, in an effort to save time on his drive back home, he leaves the highway and ends up in Middleton, Md., in front of the insurance business of an old teammate, Steven Shannon. When he calls Steven’s home, he’s stunned to learn that his former teammate is in a coma, and that right before he lapsed into unconsciousness he emptied his personal and business bank accounts. The tragedy puts Ryan in contact with Steven’s stunner of a second wife, Alana, and his attraction to her motivates him to seek the truth about what happened to her husband. His efforts soon attract the attention of the CIA. Lubitz does a good job of keeping things moving, though not always plausibly, especially toward the end. (BookLife)