FLEE by J. A. Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson
Flee is J. A. Konrath’s latest straight to Kindle novel, written with Ann Voss Peterson. The thing that really caught my eye about the book is the exquisite cover. As you can see, it’s very active and eye-catching.
The book is a whirlwind of excitement, at once titillating and adrenaline-laced. The provocative opening where Chandler (not her real name but the only one that readers are given) is flirting over the internet with a guy presents enough voyeurism that the reader is hooked. Then things get crazy.
I’d seen the opening chapters during the pre-launch, so I knew to expect the phone call from her mysterious handler, Jacob, to let Chandler know her cover was blown and her location was known. But that was all I knew. Konrath and Peterson whip the speed of the book’s pacing up to near-frenzied and keep it buried there.
That kind of pacing requires some sacrifice, though, and it has to be carefully balanced. I understood that Chandler was being hunted by someone in the espionage business and another person from her past, but I wasn’t quite sure how it all came together at the same time. I decided to attribute it to Chandler having a really bad day, and maybe some author convenience.
I enjoyed Angeline Jolie in Salt and had a lot of the same reservations. I wanted to get to know more about Chandler before she started the insane dash through Chicago to prevent the world from ending. Yep, the stakes are seriously that high.
But I understand what the authors were doing, and I enjoyed the story as it was. However, it definitely finishes out as the first book in a series. I’ll be interested to see how that works out.
The action throughout is top-notch. Chandler is up against trained thugs and assassins, and she’s always the underdog, always one step behind what’s really going on, and that puts the reader there, too, which is fun. Not that there’s a lot of time to try to figure out what’s going on between gun battles and knife fights, but there is an underlying theme of mystery that plays out pretty well.
There are touches of Chicago throughout as well, though the city didn’t quite come alive for me. Still, in an action movie, the city would have gotten the same treatment. I was actually surprised more stuff didn’t blow up, though. There’s an unlimited budget in a novel.
A couple things did jar the read and dispel the magic of the moment. Konrath is heavily touting the arrival of ebooks on his site and I’m a big believer, but he can’t stop himself from tweaking the noses of New York publishers with references to book bags (who needs ‘em these days), ebooks being the literature form of choice, and even a Kindle in a lost and found during a totally dramatic scene. Those instances just reminded me I was reading a book and knocked me out of the story.
Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels, Konrath’s signature character, puts in an appearance in this book as well, and the scenes don’t really seem to be worth the effort. They’re there to showcase Jack Daniels and to push Konrath’s other works, but – again – those appearances take the reader out of the story somewhat. I kept wondering why Jack Daniels could get a face to face with Chandler and manage to meet her on equal footing when trained assassins couldn’t do that.
And then there’s Harry McGlade, an obnoxious private eye created by Konrath but written about by Ann Voss Peterson and Konrath in Jailbait.
I’ll be picking up the next Chandler novel, purportedly Spree, followed soon by Three.