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30 December 2014

Michael Robotham: Life or Death

"Life is short. Love is vast. Live like there's no tomorrow."
This is without doubt one of the best crime thrillers I have read in 2014. It is an action-packed, adrenaline-charged, absorbing, wonderfully written and surprisingly sensitive story from one of the world's best writers of psychological fiction.

Audie Palmer was almost killed when a botched armed robbery over ten years ago left him almost brain dead from gunshot wounds. After his recovery he was imprisoned for ten years. His time in prison was not easy as he was faced by constant danger from prisoners and guards wanting to know what had happened to the millions of dollars stolen in the robbery. Despite this Audie was a survivor who baffled everyone by escaping from jail when he had only one day left before he was released.

Why would Audie want to escape when he could have walked free the next day? How is he going to survive a huge manhunt? While Audie wants to avenge his punishment and the corruption, money and treachery that put him in jail he also wants to be part of the life of someone precious to him.

Diminutive FBI Special Agent Desiree Furness gets involved when she starts to have second thoughts about the case and pieces together parts of the story that Audie has never revealed. At the same time there are others who want to track him down to prevent the truth being told. It is a tense and absorbing story full of twists and turns as Robotham takes us on a switchback ride and uncovers things that will be hard to forget.

This is not just a crime thriller, it is also a sensitive love story. Robotham tells us about Audie's early life without telling us what happened at the robbery. He tells us about Audie's intense love for Belita, a refugee from El Salvador, who tells Audie "Life is short. Love is vast. Live like there's no tomorrow."

Many successful authors stick with series that have made them successful. While Robotham has had success with his log-running series set in England featuring psychologist Joe O’Loughlin (who he promises to bring back soon), he has taken a break to show that he can write a great standalone thriller, set this time mainly in Texas.

This book shows that Australian author Michael Robotham is at the top of his form. He says on his website that LIFE OR DEATH was very special to him as, after nurturing the idea for over twenty years, he believed that he was destined to write this book. I am so glad he did because it confirms my view that he is one of the best contemporary thriller authors and I wish him every success, especially in the most important US market which is starting to know his works. Well done Michael Robotham, this is one of the rare occasions when I wish I could give a score greater than 5 stars.

I alway like to reflect on highlights of an author's prose. This quotation will remain with me for a long time:

"We take pleasure in the sound of rain, the smell of cut grass, the smiles of strangers, the feeling of dawn on a hot day. We learn things and realise we can never know more than we don’t know. We catch love like a cold and cling to it like wreckage in a storm."

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