Monday, 15 September 2014

An American Outlaw

I picked this up having spoken to the author via Twitter. To be honest I was a little hesitant. I wasn't sure it was going to be my cup of tea at all. But in the end I was glad I did.

Basic storyline is ex-US marine and Iraq vet goes on a robbery spree to raise money for his team mates who came back traumatised and generally f***ed up by their wartime experiences. Throughout the book there's a recurring theme that society doesn't adequately look after it's veterans. This leads the reader to have a natural empathy with the protagonist. But the author also introduces us to a likeable antagonist, a US Marshall who's job it is to hunt this team of rogue US marines down. By the end I found myself kinda cheering for both of them, which gave the novel extra depth.

This could so easily have been a generic heist story, hence my hesitation. While the whole feel-sorry-for-the-vets thing could so easily have been laid on with a trowell. But the author's undoubted skill ensures that we avoid the world of cliché. The characters are well drawn and their motivations adequately explained. The tension is ramped up throughout the course of the narrative but it's not simply bang bang and lots of explosions.

On a technical level I noticed few spelling or grammatical mistakes, so rare in this age of ebooks where novels, particularly those self-published, are increasingly released without proper editing.

I have two minor quibbles which make this a four star review rather than a five star one. Firstly, one way the marines are tracked is via their use of their own service weapons. It's never adequately explained why they would use their own weapons, especially in the Southern states where guns are easy to come by. Why not just buy guns on the black market? Or use a false ID in a gun store? Secondly, the main protagonist is incredibly careful not to kill anyone. Despite being a combat veteran of the US marines, having fought through a bloody ambush in Iraq and come out traumatised, we're expected to believe that he would be unprepared to take life even when his back is to the wall? I understand why the author did this, he wanted us not to fall out of love with the character. But I felt it stretched credulity just a little far.

Having said that, all in all this was a very good book. The author is certainly someone to watch. I would definitely read more of his work.

4 out of 5 stars.

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