Life or Death by Michael Robotham

So I don't have a systematic manner of going about to find a new novel - I browse Netgalley, Amazon or the tonnes of blogs that I stalk for suggestions. Sometimes pick up a book on a whim. and it turns out to be pure spun gold. The pleasure in such cases is manifold. as you are not dragged down by the hype and expectations set by the world.



Life or Death by Michael Robotham was one such. A tautly written spell binding thriller that starts off with a prison escape and then slowly unspools the backstory of the central protagonist through myriad of twists and harrowing suspense to finally reveal the truth - that would gut you and leave you spellbound at the author's craft and neatly spun plot.

Life or Death is the story of Audie Palmer who escapes the day before he was supposed to be set free after ten years in a state prison - for having aided and abetted in a robbery with money worth seven million reportedly missing. The story is revealed through multiple POVs - including that of Audie himself with flash backs of his haunting life - also featuring Moss Webster, Audie's friend in the prison, Desiree Furness, FBI special agent in charge of investigating Audie's case and his subsequent disappearance- plus a host of smaller POVs. It cuts across time as Audie relives the incidents starting from his childhood till early twenties that led to the imprisonment and is also on the run from the authorities to achieve something very specific - and all of it forms a vague but pretty intricate pattern that retains the reader's interest in the suspense surrounding this case.

I was drawn to the characterization of Audie - the young man obviously haunted  by some bad memories but is still trying to take on life on his own terms. fighting the odds every step of the way (as Moss his prison companion says, 'that boy was stabbed, strangled, beaten, glassed and burned" by both inmates and prison guards ) refusing to cave in. This tremendous amount of gumption and fortitude shown by Audie is what won me over. He is an average guy - but definitely smart and resourceful enough to keep the police guessing and the FBI still searching. Plus he harbors a secret for which the reader will pursue him all across the country side of Texas till the rocky sea-shores where the climax of the book plays out.

In addition to Audie, Moss is the other toughie who is remarkably well etched out. A big bruiser, in prison for rage-killing, this afro-american is hell bent on keeping Audie safe - while not so much an emotional wreck as Audie or a totally shrewd smart-cookie who can unravel clues and puts things together very fast like the agent Desiree, Moss still comes across as that reliable big brother in times of need and is the comfortable voice of reason through the book.

Michael's skilfully woven narrative forces you to flip pages faster to get to know the truths and to see how the different strands come together - a fine piece of edge-of-the-seat thriller with a fascinating central character you will grow sympathetic to and cheer for. Life or Death is a first-rate chase novel set in Texas written by an Australian with a massive talent for bringing stories and places to life. Excruciating amount of details, makes the story live off the pages. A must read if you like thrillers. One with a lot of heart in it.  

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