Reviews by L. J. Roberts

NICK PETRIE – The Drifter. Peter Ash #1. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover,January 2016; paperback, March 2017.

First Sentence: He walked into Harder’s Grange, announced by a chrome-plated bell mounted to the doorjamb.

   Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Peter Ash suffers from PTSD and severe claustrophobia which manifests as a loud buzzing in his head. While helping out the widow of a fellow-Marine he finds a huge, mean dog under her porch, and a suitcase filled with cash and explosives. Investigating their source could kill him.

   From the very outset, there is no question that there’s going to be trouble— “It was dark and musty under the porch, the smell of wees and forgotten things, with an animal stick on top. Not a dog smell, but something wilder. Something feral. The smell of the monsters in the oldest of fairy tales, the ones where the monsters sometimes won.” And if that doesn’t catch one’s attention…

   There is a good twist right at the beginning. However, rather too much is made of Peter’s warewolf eyes, constant motion, and feeling of static at the back of his brain. Although one understands the author trying to convey symptoms of PTSD—“How fucked up was it that walking inside freaked Peter out, but the prospect of a fistfight or shoot-out calmed him down?”—a better editor was to be desired for several reasons.

   Petrie does have a very good, captivating voice. Within all the suspense and violence, there is also humor, particularly from the dog, Mingus— “He would have a nice bruise tomorrow. It was traditional to put a steak on it, but Mingus would just eat it, then lick him to death. A bag of frozen peas would be better. The dog was not a vegetarian.”

   The characters, and there are quite a lot of them, good and bad, do all come to life. They are interesting and complex. It is nice always refreshing that they also don’t all play to stereotype. A word of caution for those to whom it matters, there is also a lot of profanity. It’s realistic considering the characters, but perhaps not to everyone’s taste.

   The Drifter definitely keeps one reading, although the ending seemed abrupt. But it’s an exciting ride.

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Bibliographic Notes:   The Drifter was nominated for for both the Edgar and the Barry award in the category of Best First Novel. The next two in the seroes are (or will be) Burning Bright (2017) and Light It Up (2018)