Saturday, January 7, 2017

Book Review: "Burning Bright" by Nick Petrie

Hell, yes! Once again, Nick Petrie proves he knows how to write a thriller that kicks ass and takes names.

Petrie's debut novel, The Drifter (see my review), was absolutely fantastic, a thriller with a great plot and terrific character development. Featuring war veteran Peter Ash, a complex, intense protagonist, the book even made "honorable mention" on my list of the best books I read in 2015.

Petrie—and Peter Ash—have returned in Burning Bright, a book with even more crackling action and moments of quiet emotion. It might even be better than its predecessor. And here's one thing: I know that blurbs from other authors is just a marketing thing, but when Lee Child is willing to say, "Lots of characters get compared to my own Jack Reacher, but Peter Ash is the real deal," that carries some weight. (Plus, it's true.)

Ash served in Iraq and Afghanistan, returning home after multiple tours of duty plagued by "white static"—serious claustrophobia brought on from the traumatic stress of combat. It's so bad he can barely stand to be indoors for more than a few minutes, and even being outside when the sky is really cloudy gives him trouble. He has once again taken to a long-term hiking and camping trip, this time among the California redwoods, when he discovers he's not as alone as he thought—he encounters a grizzly bear, a rare occurrence these days since most have vanished from that part of the country. His run-in with the bear doesn't approach The Revenant territory, but it sends him up a tree with no gear and supplies, and just slightly worse for wear.

Just as he's beginning to wonder if he'll have to stay in the tree for days until the bear gets distracted, he notices a climbing rope hanging in the tree, what he discovers is a series of ropes hanging from adjacent trees. What better plan that to follow this course, of sorts, and see where it leads? So there he is, traveling from tree to tree, until he finds a hanging platform. All is safe now. Then he finds another danger—a woman with a gun pointed at him. And next? Men with guns. Firing.

June Cassidy is a feisty, Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist known for her investigations into data security. She's been on the run from men purporting to be with the federal government, who are interested in what she knows about her mother's groundbreaking computer software research, since her mother died in an accident not long ago. She doesn't know what her mother was working on, but it must have been something big, because these men keep coming. She doesn't know how to escape them, but discovers Peter might be the help she needs.

As the two team up to figure out who is after June, and what they want, they encounter a series of ever-more-determined men wanting to capture and/or kill them. It's going to take toughness, serious smarts, and pretty mad skills with firearms and getaway cars, none of which seems like a problem for the duo. But as they begin to uncover a serious operation afoot which makes June question whom she can trust, and Peter has to fight both the static and those after June, they may be in more trouble than they think.

Once again, Petrie has written a thriller which is the stuff of which great action films are made. The opening chapters are full of serious pulse-pounding action, but he doesn't give character and plot development short shrift. Peter Ash is so much more than meets the eye, but even though he can drop more than a few assailants at once, he still has a lot of problems of his own, not to mention the adrenaline and, perhaps even a little thrill, which comes from taking care of those looking to do him and June harm. And in June, Petrie has created a terrific foil for Peter.

If you like thrillers which not only ratchet up your pulse but leave you marveling at the author's storytelling skill as well, pick up Burning Bright. (You can read that one first if you want, but The Drifter is equally excellent.) My hope is that Petrie—and Peter Ash—will be back soon, and will get the public recognition they deserve.

NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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