The Tzer Island book blog features book reviews written by TChris, the blog's founder.  I hope the blog will help readers discover good books and avoid bad books.  I am a reader, not a book publicist.  This blog does not exist to promote particular books, authors, or publishers.  I therefore do not participate in "virtual book tours" or conduct author interviews.  You will find no contests or giveaways here.

The blog's nonexclusive focus is on literary/mainstream fiction, thriller/crime/spy novels, and science fiction.  While the reviews cover books old and new, in and out of print, the blog does try to direct attention to books that have been recently published.  Reviews of new (or newly reprinted) books generally appear every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Reviews of older books appear on occasional Sundays.  Readers are invited and encouraged to comment.  See About Tzer Island for more information about this blog, its categorization of reviews, and its rating system.

Entries in Nick Petrie (2)

Friday
Mar082019

Tear It Down by Nick Petrie

Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on January 15, 2019

I enjoyed Light It Up (the third Peter Ash novel but the first I read), in part because Ash is a tough guy who doesn’t act like a typical thriller tough guy. There were enough fight scenes to establish his tough guy credentials, but there’s more to Ash than the ability to throw punches. I liked him even more in Tear It Down. When a kid steals his truck, wallet, and phone, Ash lets it happen, in part because he doesn’t want to risk being shot, in part because he doesn’t want to hurt the kid. That’s a refreshing attitude for a thriller tough guy. His restraint doesn’t stop him from being an action hero when the need arises, but he doesn’t feel the urge to show off his skills just to prove his toughness. Of course, Ash wants his truck back, which adds an interesting subplot to a main story that is already more entertaining than most tough guy thrillers deliver.

A homeless boy named Ellison Bell listens as his three friends, none older than fifteen, cook up a plan to rob a jewelry store in a mall. Bell is the smart one so he does most of the planning. He’s reluctant to take the risk but against his better judgment, he does. Of course, the robbery does not end well, and Bell is hunted by one of the baddest bad guys in Memphis. That sets up the subplot.

Meanwhile, Ash is getting antsy. His broken bones have mended, and as much as he enjoys his time with his girlfriend June, he needs to be on the move. June sends him to Memphis, where her friend Wanda Wyatt, a black lesbian war photographer, is being harassed by a white supremacist.

The harassment consists of destroying her house — repeatedly, on one occasion by using a belt-loaded machine gun. That seems a bit extreme just to make a black lesbian leave the neighborhood, so Ash and the reader wonder what the real motivation might be. The answer is surprising. Surprises are always good in thriller plots.

Ash has been damaged by his experiences, making him more likable than thriller heroes who are merely self-righteous or filled with the wrath of justice (however they define it). He’s also empathic; he can relate to the damage in others. He has an affinity for Wanda, who has seen her share of carnage and might be even more damaged than Ash. Lewis, his tough guy buddy, isn’t as carefully developed, but he’s likely to grow a more detailed background in future novels.

Tear It Down offers some insight into why redneck racists blame everyone but themselves for their problems. It paints a convincing portrait of Memphis as a city that offers few opportunities to people who were not born into the privileges offered by a middle-class life. The story argues that violence is a way for the powerless to gain a feeling of power, regardless of their skin color. At the same time, it suggests that people of all races can change negative racial perceptions by being kind to each other. Maybe those aren’t original insights, but they give the novel more weight than a typical action thriller.

Still, this is ultimately a tough guy novel, which means fighting, chasing, and shooting, all unfolding in cinematic style. The plot is unusual, unpredictable, and fun. With the addition of strong characterization and a bit of philosophy, Tear It Down demonstrates that Peter Ash novels merit the attention of fans of tough (but smart) guy fiction.

RECOMMENDED

Wednesday
Feb282018

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.

RECOMMENDED