Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Book Review: "The Real Michael Swann" by Bryan Reardon

One moment, Julia Swann is on the phone with her husband, Michael. He's calling from New York's Penn Station, where he's waiting to catch a train home after a job interview, but the trains are significantly delayed. Without warning, Julia hears a noise in the background and then Michael's call is dropped.

She tries not to worry, but as the hours roll by, she still hasn't heard from Michael, nor can she reach him. That evening she finds out that a major incident occurred at Penn Station which left countless people dead and injured. Julia needs to believe Michael is okay, so she decides to drive into New York City to try and find him herself. Even though the city is in the midst of massive chaos, she is determined to get answers as to where he is, and whether or not he was injured. She, like many others, puts up flyers all over the city, asking for people to get in touch with her if they see Michael.

Julia is pleasantly surprised when a woman calls her and says she may have seen Michael. But that surprise quickly turns to uncertainty and fear. Why hasn't he called her or responded to her texts? Where is he heading? Unable to get answers from the authorities, who suddenly view Michael as something other than a victim, Julia knows she must find her husband and get him whatever help he needs, even if she's not sure what to expect anymore.

Julia's efforts to find Michael are juxtaposed with her reminiscences about their relationship, from their meet-cute at a beach party just after college, to their falling in love and building a future together. She also remembers their struggles, as money problems, job struggles, and the responsibilities which come with raising children took their toll on their marriage. But Julia cannot envision a life without her husband.

"In the end, it seems like the moments we thought we messed up were nothing. And we can't even remember the stuff we really screwed up."

The Real Michael Swann is part thriller, part love story, as Julia desperately searches for her husband and for answers to the questions she is afraid to voice out loud. All of this is played out against a backdrop of national terror, political unrest, and a fractured society, all of which seem eerily too real in today's world.

I enjoyed this book and found it grabbed me from the start, although at times it moved a little slower than I expected. There are some other plot points that I didn't want to mention for fear of spoiling them, so hopefully you don't read too many other detailed reviews which might give some of it away, but suffice it to say there is a third narrative which adds another fascinating dimension to this book.

Let yourself get immersed in this story. Bryan Reardon is a terrific storyteller and he knows when to push the suspense and when to slow it down a little bit so things don't get too intense. Definitely one of those thrillers perfect for devouring on the beach, on a plane, or in a hammock somewhere.

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