Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Great Debut Novel from Jenny Siler

Alison Kerry's childhood was anything but normal. Raised in the Florida Keys by her father, a Vietnam vet-turned-barkeeper and smuggler, Allie learned early on the skills necessary to survive on the wrong side of the American dream. As a young girl, she learned how to drink and fight and shoot and joined her father and his partner on their drug smuggling expeditions before falling into the grip of a nasty cocaine habit. Now in recovery, she has become a courier, driving packages from one part of the country to another.

Allie is not working for UPS or FedEx, but rather for any number of shadowy figures who pay her well for her services. Most often, she doesn't even know what she's delivering; she simply drives the package from point A to point B, collects her pay and moves on to the next job.

A former lover named Joe calls her with a simple assignment: pick up a package near Seattle and deliver it to Houston. No muss, no fuss; Easy Money. It turns out to be anything but, and everything that could go wrong does go wrong, right from the git go. The pickup site is a seedy bar and Allie barely has the package in hand (well, surreptitiously slipped into her back pocket), when two guys come into the bar and kill the guy who delivered it to her.

Things go sideways in a big hurry. Allie is lucky to get out alive, and from there things only get worse. She hops into her Mustang and begins a long odyssey that will take her from Seattle across the country with both the bad guys and the cops hot on her trail. The package she's carrying has the potential to disrupt the lives of some Very Important People and could expose secrets that were supposed to have been buried decades earlier. 

It's a compelling trip through the proverbial sordid underbelly of American life, and it's hard to imagine that this book was Jenny Siler's debut novel. It's even harder to believe that she was only in her mid-twenties when she wrote it. It has the depth and the wisdom that one would expect to find in a book from a much more seasoned author in the middle of his or her career. It should appeal to readers who like their tales hard boiled and on the dark and gritty side, on the order of authors like James Crumley who wrote a very strong blurb for the book.

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