LIFE OR DEATH
Author: Michael Robotham
Sphere RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Why would a man escape from prison the day before he’s due to be released? That’s the question author Michael Robotham asks readers to ponder as they turn pages of his latest thriller, Life or Death, and it’s fair to say at the outset that there’s probably a pretty good reason … perhaps even a matter of life or death. That question kept me glued to the book, caught up in the urgency of fugitive Audie Palmer as he goes on the run, with not only the authorities on his heels.
Set in the US, the action starts immediately as Audie, a convicted armed robber, plunges down a ravine and hurtles towards a lake, knowing that his chasers are not far behind. After a decade in prison, during which he was beaten, stabbed and threatened near-daily, he has escaped. Is he running from something? Or to something? Or both? Those after him believe he is attempting to recover the missing money from the robbery, all seven million dollars; their vicious attempts to force him to admit the money’s location never did work. The reader knows there is more to it, and it involves a promise made long-ago.
Audie wakes with a strange certainty that he’s been dreaming but with no memory of the dream. He feels the familiar ache of something that has just dropped off the edge of his consciousness, almost glimpsed but now lost. His past feels like that – a swirl of dust and litter.
At first I did wonder if Audie was some sort of anti-hero, but my opinion revised quickly as he pushed on towards his goal – this man was no hardened criminal. A picture emerged of a man capable of great love and loyalty; a man whose sole purpose was to reach out and protect someone. He did remind me of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, as did his daring escape that no one on the inside (or outside) would have predicted (likewise, Moss also reminded me of Red). Did any other readers make that connection? Anyway, I was quickly onside with him, hoping that whatever he was seeking to do would fall into place.
Absorbing, tense and well-characterised, Life or Death is a worthy addition to Robotham’s portfolio. Fans will find that this one is a standalone and the location move from the UK to the US may come as a surprise. I don’t think it’s as dark or chilling as Watching You, the only other Robotham I have read (to be rectified), but it’s entertaining and thrilling nonetheless.
Available from good bookstores and Hachette Australia. My copy was courtesy of Hachette.
Bookish treat: Saos (iconic Aussie cracker biscuits) with cheese and tomato. Yum.