Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lisa Brackman Returns to U.S. Thriller Line, with GO-BETWEEN from Soho Crime

I'm a total fan of Lisa Brackmann's China-set crime series that began with Rock Paper Tiger, followed by Hour of the Rat and Dragon Day. Ellie McEnroe, an Iraq war vet with a bad leg, flashbacks, and a serious passion for life in modern China, gets pretty mixed up in how she handles life, especially the political pressures and risks that Americans can trigger in that place. Her mistakes are understandable, and her frustrations and loyalties appeal to me.

The thriller route that Brackmann also opened with Michelle Mason in Getaway rubbed me wrong -- I felt as though Michelle's poor choices didn't make sense for how smart she is. So I'm glad to say that with the second book in this series, GO-BETWEEN, Michelle seems to have her smarts back into place. Unfortunately, her situation -- partnered with a serious cannabis merchant in northern California -- is designed for failure, and when her boyfriend Danny gets arrested and tossed into the for-profit prison system, it's clear that the sociopathic ex-CIA agent who got them into this mess to start with is back in their lives. For the worse, actually.

I like the way Brackmann takes us into Michelle's struggle to assess and confront the situation:
You can't worry about that now, she told herself. First things first. See Danny. Tell him what was going on. Find out what he thought she should do.

She'd worked through all the options, and she thought she knew what the best one was, but maybe he had a better idea. An angle she hadn't thought of. Because the best option she'd thought of for this situation wasn't very good at all.
Ironically, what Gary -- the ex-CIA manipulator -- wants Michelle and Danny to do for him is connected to the war on drugs, as well as big-money politics and the role of nonprofits with wealth behind them. Michelle's assessment turns out to be on target: There are no good options this time.

Dark, quirky, moderately violent, and a page-turned for its intrigue and smart twists, GO-BETWEEN captures the nightmare of every person who's ever done something "a little bit against the law" -- and is waiting for the penalty stage of capture and punishment. Scary stuff, and a compelling read as a modern thriller with bite! (From Soho Crime, of course ...)

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