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Light It Up by Nick Petrie

Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on January 16, 2018

Peter Ash has put his claustrophobia on hold long enough to do a short-term gig helping his friend Henry provide security while transporting cash from legal marijuana sales in Colorado. Nick Petrie conveys the essence of Peter and Henry in a couple of early chapters. He does it without wasting words, but he gives them depth by pulling the scabs off their lives.

A marijuana delivery goes bad and Peter finds himself in need of a lawyer. Of course, she’s beautiful, and of course, she wants to have sex with him on the night she first meets him (not entirely credible, given that sex with clients gets lawyers disbarred). But Peter has his heart set on a different woman, so readers are denied a juicy sex romp. Instead, we’re treated to some unusually entertaining action scenes as new players come on the scene, all intent on killing Peter.

The new players apparently have a connection to the state police. They also have a military connection, including Daniel Clay Dixon, a self-hating gay who spent 25 years in the Marines, a hatred that is encouraged by his church and by the southern “values” with which he was raised. Dixon is another character Petrie creates with sensitivity and perception.

Peter gets an assist from his friend Lewis, one of those good-hearted criminals who only steals from people who deserve it. There’s usually a buddy in a novel like this, and Lewis is a good one — a dark, mysterious loner who nevertheless plays the role of loyal friend.

One of the novel’s villains is a predatory businessman who makes money by purchasing companies in distress and then reselling them at a large profit. To enhance his opportunity to buy at a low cost, he causes (or enhances) the distress. That makes him a more interesting and realistic villain than the cartoon terrorists that obsess lesser thriller writers.

Did I mention the action scenes? A car chase across a golf course would be a great movie scene. Petrie manages to make it come alive in the reader’s imagination. The last few chapters are filled with nonstop shooting and stabbing and punching. I dismiss most action scenes in tough guy novels as being borderline ridiculous, but the ending of Light It Up is both exhilarating and convincing.

The plot travels in unexpected directions as it explores the legal marijuana business and the trouble it creates for key characters. And while I wouldn’t want to know most of the tough guys who dominate thrillers, Peter Ash is intelligent, troubled, and interesting — meaning he’s not a tough guy at all, despite his toughness. That makes Light It Up an appealing novel.


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