Strong characters and great plot.

Life or Death - Michael Robotham

Thanks to the publishers for providing me a free copy through Net Galley.

This novel’s tagline is The Shawshank Redemption meets No Country for Old Men and it is fairly accurate.

Audey Palmer escapes prison the day before he was due to be released, and everybody, including the inmates of the prison, wonder, why? This question propels the novel where Robottam makes a skilful use of third person point of view that alternates between a large cast of characters, but they are all so distinct that the reader never loses track.

From Audey, whose memories are slowly uncovered, to a diminutive but feisty FBI female agent, Moss, the prisoner of the next cell and a deeper character than at first appears, a sheriff hell bent on revenge, we get to see things from their perspective, whilst at the same time we’re not shown the whole story until the very end. The pieces fall into place eventually, and although we might have our suspicions, it fits in beautifully. Considering the times and the stories in the news, unfortunately the truth behind the case does not feel like a huge stretch of the imagination.

Audey is a survivor against all odds but at the same time has an uncanny talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When asked about it, he comments that he must have broken a mirror and found a horseshoe in the same day. There are many coincidences throughout the plot, but then life is full of them and there is an internal logic to the characters and the story that pulls it all together. Audey has something of the tragic hero as fate seems heavily stacked against him but he never gives up. And those on his side seem to grow in stature by coming in contact with him.

The style of the novel is easy to read, well-paced and at the same time beautifully written, with some gems of insight and style. I also loved the dry sense of humour and the pathos. The plot and the story keeps us engaged, but the level of writing and the skill lift it above the humdrum standard thriller. This novel will work equally for people who enjoy complex characters and those who prefer an action filled adventure. A great book.