A guest review by Buda
One-Sentence Review: While the concept has great potential, the execution is muddied by too much head-hopping and weak heroes.
This review contains what could be considered spoilers.
When Neil arrives at Kent’s house for dinner as a first step to rebuilding their friendship, the last thing he expects is to be attacked. Neil is forced to watch as Kent is beaten viciously and he begs them to stop before they kill him. One of the last things Neil hears before he loses consciousness is, “Don’t want him dead… yet. Just leave enough evidence.”
A confused and frightened Neil awakens to find himself locked in a cell. He’s grateful to find Kent is with him but concerned because Kent is deeply unconscious. Neil looks after him as best as he can, praying Kent will wake up, promising himself that when Kent does, Neil will admit to him how he really feels. Seeing the man he loves attacked and almost killed has crystallized his feelings. Neil is relieved two days later when Kent comes to. But then the cell door opens and things go from bad to worse.
Neil and Kent have been friends for years, but for the last year, that friendship has existed under the stress and strain of the after-effects of a terrible accident that resulted in the death of Neil’s brother. Finally, the men are about to put all that behind them and spend some time together. Except, as Neil lets himself in Kent’s apartment all hell breaks loose.
As stated in the blurb, a baddie drugs Neil and he’s forced to watch as other baddies beat the hell out of Kent. When next he awakes, Neil finds himself in a darkened concrete-floored room with no windows, a heavy metal door, and an unconscious Kent. For the next two days, he tends to a still unconscious Kent, going through the usual various emotional vows–that he will tell Kent how he feels and maybe they’ll live happily ever after together–if they get out alive.
The book takes place over the course of four or five days during which time the two are locked away in their cell. Once Kent awakens from his brutal beating, their captors let them know what is being said about their disappearance and assure them that they will pay for their past misdeeds with their lives. If that all sounds a little melodramatic, it is because the Revenge is a bit melodramatic.
There is so much head-hopping in this story, it actually played against the drama. The police, the co-workers, the boss, the lead kidnapper and the man-in-charge all tell their story along with both Neil and Kent. The captors and the man-in-charge do not benefit from telling their story; in fact, it makes them even more one-dimensional than if we had viewed them only from their victims’ eyes.
Awkward sentence structure surrounds the occasional unintentionally funny phrase. For example, “‘Damn it! What do you want?’ Kent snapped, at the end of his–very taut–tether,” (was the “very taut” really necessary, or is it implied?) is followed later by Kent saying, “No. I can just imagine Payton tearing the guy off a strip for opening up like that.” At which point I burst out laughing picturing Payton carefully disengaging “the guy” from a strip of Velcro. However, both Kent and Neil come across as sympathetic characters who have been done wrong by the man-in-charge, as they certainly don’t deserve the treatment and fate he has in store for them. I do have to admit that Neil annoyed me more than necessary with his over-the-top speech, such as “‘Not to us, but what about our friends? Payton? What about Lisa? God, what must they all be thinking? Oh, Kent, I hate this. I hate it!’ Neil leaned against Kent and let his friend comfort him for a minute. ‘Can you read it, Kent? Can you read it out to me?'” And this is just after Kent has awakened and they’ve been confronted by their captors. Sure, go ahead and lean on the man just fresh from a two-day coma!
Overall, though, neither the heroes nor the execution of the plot lived up to the tremendous potential of the blurb. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but based on this example, I would not be opposed to reading more because it is mostly well-written (the occasional awkward phrasing aside). I did hope for more from this one, but if you’re a fan of the author, this is good enough to go on the TBR pile, but not amazing enough to vault to the top of it.