Monday, June 26, 2017

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper

First Sentence:  His skin told his history in tattoos and knife scars.
Nate McClusky is about to be released from prison.  Rather than being forced to be a soldier on the outside for the Aryan Steel, he ends up killing a high-ranking member and having a warrant to greenlight his murder, as well as that of his ex-wife, her new husband, and his 11-year-old daughter Polly. He is too late to save the first two, but he is determined to do everything possible to save Polly even if it means putting her in extreme danger.
Polly is one of those characters one can’t help but like from the very beginning.  Everything about her is unique and special—“She moved the bear with practiced hands so he stood on her lap and looked around.  She had practiced with him for hours and hours so he moved with a liquid sort of grace, like a true and living thing.”… “Poly read about this pearl planet with a storm inside it and the thought burped full-formed out of Polly’s brain:  I’m from Venus. That was the way Poly felt, that outside she was quiet and calm, but inside her acid winds roared.  She’d never known why she’d been that way, so quiet on the outside but inside so scream loud, but now she knew. I’m from Venus.”  Yes, she did make me think a bit of Flavia from Alan Bradley's series, but only in the sense that both characters are the same age, and both have found ways to cope with being different from those around them.
Nate, too, is unusual.  Rooting for the anti-hero, the ex-con, isn’t a position in which one usually finds oneself.  Yet here, one does.  He knows who, and what, he is.  He has a true awareness of self, and a focused determination.  Detective Park is equally rare; a cop who is willing to change his focus and is committed to the case even after everyone else has lost interest—“The media has lost interest the second week.  A starlet found floating facedown in a Hollywood Hills home had grabbed the spotlight.  The media was a living organism, and it ate beautiful dead things.”
With each character, especially Polly, one can’t help but feel a bit of sorrow and regret, no matter what happens.  Harper takes one into a world you know exists, but not in detail and one hoped never to be known personally.  He shows you the details so one will never be able to quite forget them—“That soon as you found something to live for, you found something to die for too.  But he guessed in the end it was a good trade.”
There are simple statements of truth—“Some things get replaced, she thought, and some things never will.”—and bits of information; i.e., how felons communicate with the outside, and bullet wounds.  These are things, thankfully, outside most people’s lives, but are part of reality.
Harper has such a fine writer’s voice.  He conveys both actions and emotions in simple sentences—“Park hit the apartment complex at speed. … He left the car in the fire zone, fuck-you-I’m-a-cop style.  He double-timed the stairs to Carla’s apartment.  Bam bam bam on the door, fuck-you-I’m-a-cop style.” Harper doesn’t rely on cliché tricks or even on plot twists.  Instead, there are small surprises that alter the trajectory just slightly.  There is violence and brutality, but it is never gratuitous.
She Rode Shotgun” is not an emotionally easy or comfortable book to read.  One is acutely aware of the “what if’s” associated with each character, especially Polly.  It is, however, an exceptional book with remarkable characters.

SHE RIDES SHOTGUN (Susp-Polly/Nate McClusky-California-Contemp) - Ex
      Harper, Jordan – 1st book
      ECCO – June, 2017 

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