Thrillers take different turns

March 23, 2014
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Picking up a new thriller to read while on holiday was a case of deja vu all over again … two books by different authors share a common title.

No Way Back, by Matthew Klein (Allen & Unwin, RRP $30):

I read the back cover of this one and was hooked from the start, but every time I looked at the front cover I had the uneasy feeling I’d been there before.

Then, as I opened the book and continued reading I would convince myself I was wrong, that I hadn’t read this book already.

Yes, I know it sounds a little improbable that I could lose track of what books I’d read recently (this one was published just a few months ago) but in my own defence, I often read three books a week and some of them are supplied well before their publication dates.

The story kicks off with Jimmy Thane arriving at his new job as CEO of a troubled tech company.

Jimmy has had a pretty rough time of it in recent years, with murky details of his son’s death and a history of drug abuse popping up throughout the book. This job is his new start, a was of picking up his life and moving forward.

It’s not just his career that is at a crossroads, his relationship with his wife is also strained and he’s hoping that it is not just the company that he can repair.

But as Jimmy tries to turn around the fortunes of the failing company, there are more and more things that ring alarm bells: the police turn up asking questions about his now missing predecessor, surveillance equipment in his neighbour’s house that seems to be directed at his own living room and his wife appears to be terrified of something he doesn’t understand.

As all this is going on, Jimmy starts to slide back to his old ways, starting an affair and turning to drugs.

As his life spirals out of control, he finally realises the truth of what is going on and it’s far more shocking than he imagined.

This isn’t quite as brilliant as Switchback, one of author Matthew Klein’s earlier novels, it’s still a cracking read with lots of twists and turns. I think it was made all the more interesting by the main character being so flawed – a pleasant change from the run-of-the-mill, square-jawed hero types who normally take the lead role.

I packed this book in my handbag to have on hand as my “waiting at the airport” read while on holiday last month and because of one cancelled flight and delays on the other two, pretty much had it finished by the time we arrived in Auckland. A few days later, while unpacking on a cruise ship, my own plot twist was finally explained: I hadn’t read this book before, there was no deja vu going on. My feeling of familiarity with this book was because I had another with the exact same title tucked away in my case. However, this one was a different author.

No Way Back, by Andrew Gross (HarperCollins, RRP $35):

Another thriller with another flawed (but not quite as flawed as the aforementioned Jimmy Thane) lead character and another good read but a totally different angle.

As the story kicks off, three stories are told that will eventually become one: that of a group of United States students murdered in Mexico, ex-cop Wendy Stansi and nanny Lauritzia Velez.

After a row with her husband, Wendy ends up in a bar, waiting to meet a friend. The friend has to cancel but – still angry with her husband – Wendy ends up in the hotel room of a handsome man she met in the bar.

However, she has a change of heart and decides to go home but before she can leave, she gets dragged in to a deadly encounter with a Homeland Security agent that has tragic consequences for all involved.

Wendy is framed for murder and ends up on the run and fighting for her life and she tries to clear her name.

Lauritzia is also pulled into a dangerous situation involving drug cartels and decides it would be safest for everyone if she returned to her native Mexico. However, her employers discover her plan and convince her to stay so they can help keep her safe: a decision that also has tragic consequences.

As their two stories become intertwined we learn the awful truth about the murdered students as the two women try to get back to living their lives without fear.

This one’s quite a different story from the first “No Way Back” I read, but every bit as good.

Jillian Allison-Aitken

I come from the other land down under, where men are men, and sheep are nervous. I'm a sub-editor and in the past have been a proof-reader, news editor and web editor. I am also an ex-columnist, and book and software reviewer for the local daily newspaper.I still read. A lot. And surf the web. Also a lot.You'll find a little about both of those pastimes here, and on By George.

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