resilience

“Prime Target” by Ellis Vidler

Book Cover - Prime Targetnew

 

“Prime Target” is Ellis Vidler’s intriguing look at what the average person might do to escape the mob. Madeleine Schier receives a phone call from her husband in the middle of the work day, asking her to come home quickly. When she does, he tells her that they have to get out of town right away. She protests, not understanding, and before they can leave, he is killed in their apartment while she hides under the bed.

 

Her husband’s accounting firm unintentionally worked for a criminal specializing in human trafficking and the only way to bring the guy down may be for her to testify about her husband’s murder. Hiding out with the FBI at hotels until the court date doesn’t work – there is a leak in the department. Madeleine intends to testify, but can’t rely on the feds to keep her safe in the city. She must ‘disappear or die.’

 

What happens next is a fascinating series of moves that Madeline makes to keep herself one step ahead of the FBI and those that want her dead. Vidler provides the reader with plenty of action, but what Madeleine does to hide her identity, while protecting those she meets, is what drives much of the story. Madeleine (who becomes Grace) is intelligent and able to think on her feet, but she also has to sort out which of the supposedly ‘good guys’ she can really trust.

 

“Prime Target” caused me to wonder what I would do if placed in that same situation. I consider myself fairly resourceful, but would I have enough grit to stay quiet under the bed while watching my husband be executed? How would I establish that new identity? Is it easier to get lost in a big city or in the countryside, off in the woods? Technology might defeat me, since we can be tied geographically to the source of our internet connection. In order to maintain her anonymity, Grace has no phone and no contact with anyone for a while except at the grocery store and gas station. I would probably go through withdrawal after a day or so and bring the villains right to my door.

 

Not to give away the plot and how she does it all, but I don't have as much money as Grace, so I’d have to consider what things I would of necessity, have to do differently. Always using cash means that you have to carry around quite a bit or else have easy access to a stash.

 

Grace is completely capable of the tasks Vidler gives her, until the apple farm purchase. I wondered why a city gal would think, “How hard could it be to run an apple farm?” and it made for an even more believable character. Her time on the apple farm may have been Grace’s most challenging, as her naïveté comes into play and her wish to help could get her killed.

 

“Prime Target” has overlapping storylines, with interesting, sympathetic characters and even a tentative love interest, that lend depth to Grace’s plight. The situation of the wounded, scarred warrior, so badly disfigured that people react with horror to his scars, is handled with respect and tenderness. Bravo to Vidler’s method of dealing with his surgeries and voluntary isolation from the world, yet who still functions in a meaningful, logical way.

 

There is little new to be learned about human trafficking in “Prime Target,” but the fact that the players are ruthless, nasty people willing to protect their way of life at all costs is underscored whenever the villains are at the center of the action. Grace is appropriately alarmed about that cold-bloodedness and behaves accordingly. She doesn’t have super powers or unusual gifts, so instead uses her mind and the tools available to see her through. Vidler makes us believe that Grace’s survival is possible despite the odds to the contrary.

 

Please visit www.ellisvidler.com for information about Ms. Vidler’s books – audio, print, and ebook versions – as well as her blog.

 

 

2015 ITW Thriller Awards Finalists & Winners

 

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Are thrillers your favorite genre reading? Then feast your eyes on the winners of the 2015 ITW Awards (International Thriller Writers) handed out in July in New York City. The level of quality was terrific and the competition fierce. See the links to my reviews for two of them (Best First Novel and Best Paperback Original categories).

 

2015 ITW Thriller Awards Nominees – winners noted with asterisk.
 

BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL
*Megan Abbott – THE FEVER (Little, Brown and Company)
Lauren Beukes – BROKEN MONSTERS (Mulholland Books)
Joseph Finder – SUSPICION (Dutton)
Greg Iles – NATCHEZ BURNING (William Morrow)
Chevy Stevens – THAT NIGHT (St. Martin’s Press)

 

BEST FIRST NOVEL
Ray Celestin – THE AXEMAN’S JAZZ (Mantle)
Julia Dahl – INVISIBLE CITY (Minotaur Books)
Allen Eskens – THE LIFE WE BURY (Seventh Street Books)
*Laura McHugh – THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD (Spiegel & Grau)
Andy Weir – THE MARTIAN (Crown)  (Read review here)

 

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL
Shelley Coriell – THE BURIED (Forever)
Robert Dugoni – MY SISTER’S GRAVE (Thomas & Mercer)  (Read review here)
James R. Hannibal – SHADOW MAKER (Berkley)
Rick Mofina – WHIRLWIND (Harlequin MIRA)
*Vincent Zandri – MOONLIGHT WEEPS (Down & Out Books)

 

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!
Please visit http://thrillerwriters.org/programs/2015-thriller-awards/ for the YA, ebook original, and short story nominee and winner lists.

 

 

 

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand

 

Book Cover - Unbroken

Resilient: Attribute of someone who can "bounce back" after shock or injury, whether of the physical or psychological kind.

 

Before Louis Zamperini, the subject of Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken,” became an Olympic runner, he had been a juvenile delinquent, getting into so much trouble that some thought he might not survive his teenaged years. He was restless, reckless and unimpressed by boundaries or rules, outsmarting his targets at every turn. His parents tried, but were unable to rein him in. He was unbowed by physical or verbal threats. Then in high school, his brother helped save Zamperini from himself by persuading the principal to let him race. Over the next year, training consisted of being hit with a stick, running over hills and trails, and running until he dropped. Eventually, running was all he wanted to do.

 

As he matured, he became one of the best distance runners in the world, but WW2 broke out and Zamperini’s future changed. He joined the Army Air Corps, and then was shot down in the Pacific after Pearl Harbor. Despite the ordeal of drifting over 1000 miles in open seas for 47 days with no provisions and surrounded by sharks, he and another airman survived, only to be captured by the Japanese once they reached land in the Marshall Islands. His non-stop harrowing experience at the hands of torturers who never heard of the Geneva Convention would have broken a different man, but Zamperini had an incredible inner strength that brought him through. Resilience.

 

This non-fiction account of his courage and endurance in the face of inconceivable challenges has been on the NYT bestseller list for over 165 weeks. In “Unbroken,” Hillenbrand’s descriptions are gritty, raw and oh, so real. I smelled the decaying bodies. I was in the water when the enemy aircraft shot at the raft. I was terrified when Watanabe (a guard who singled him out) came close and demonstrated the worst form of man’s inhumanity to man.

 

We civilians would hope that this kind of mistreatment does not occur if our loved ones in the military are wounded or captured by the enemy. We also hope that they will return to us mentally and emotionally unscarred by whatever traumas they have experienced, but we know this is not always the case. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is a very real possibility for people serving at the front lines and while nobody gave it a name in WW2, Zamperini must have been a clear example. That Zamperini was capable of forgiveness years later is remarkable in itself, but his action of forgiveness moved even his former enemies.

 

Hillenbrand has shown once again that truth is sometimes more riveting than fiction – remember her engrossing retelling of the story of “Seabiscuit?”

 

Zamperini died July 2, 2014 at the age of 97. His son, Luke, gives talks about his father’s inspirational life and Zamperini’s legacy will also live on in an upcoming movie.

 

Please visit www.laurahillenbrandbooks.com for more information about future plans for “Unbroken.”