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by Michael Marshall

You have a nice, ordered life. For the most part, you control your destiny. You have dreams and seek to fulfill them. Then one day, you wake to find you don’t have control, someone else does.

This is the basic premise to Michael Marshall’s latest novel. Open the cover and step into a world where almost nobody is who he or she seems to be. Where a deranged mind seeks personal gratification by playing a dangerous game and where a man seeks vengeance against those who wronged him.

Bill Moore is a south Florida realtor. Ambitious. Competitive. In control.
Looking to advance up the ladder to become part up the echelon of wealth.
Until he finds pieces of his life slowly going awry. Events occur for which others think he’s responsible. At first they’re small, seemingly unimportant, but soon, they mushroom into a chaos so intense, Moore doesn’t know where to turn next or who to trust…if he can trust anybody.

The basic plot has been done before (Sandra Bullock in The Net, for example) but I don’t think anything has been quite as in depth as this. This reaches a new level of complexity over issues of control. It’s involved with complex angles, but delivers the one-two punch of suspense and intrigue expected.

Bill Moore – Realtor. He has a plan to work his way up to the big time although it is taking a little longer to get there. He is business oriented, in creating his own brand, his own way of how people look at him. He reads positive attitude and motivational blogs, and keeps his social networking current. Very exact and orderly.

Stephanie – Bill’s wife. Works as an editor of a local magazine. Very supportive of Bill. Very happy in her life.

Karren White – Coworker of Bill’s and his competition (at least from his point of view).

Janine – secretary at the realty firm. Inept (at least from Bill’s point of view)

John Hunter – Ex con released after sixteen years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. He is seeking revenge on the guilty parties.

David Warner – Presented as a wealthy would-be client for Bill, but was involved with Hunter years ago.

Cassandra – Ice cream shop waitress. Dresses in Goth clothes. Befriends Bill.

One thing I’ll mention about these and other characters is: don’t believe anybody. Most everybody is lying and has secrets; some of them hold secrets so deep they’re unforgivable and should never be brought to light.
The ‘falseness’ of the characters work well in showing how Moore’s orderly life heads into left field.

Orderly. Exact. Dialogue is not the main focus of the story. Conversations are almost just filler for what’s going on in the story. Most stories’(unless you’re watching 2001: A Space Odyssey) dialogue moves the action along, provide clues to the plot or the mystery. This one doesn’t, but don’t get the idea that it’s a detriment to the book. Some conversations explain, other just push Moore into the next scene.

Like the dialogue, very exact and orderly. Marshall uses similes and analogies and a few background stories to make points. Once the action gets going, the ‘rest’ gaps are short because Marshall doesn’t want you to stay still. However, this orderliness and exactness and to-the-point logicalness is a veil covering everything and every character and I thought the covering was fine for the first person narrative with Moore, but could have been folded back somewhat to show a difference when the scenes deal with other characters. Near the end, Marshall makes reference to his previous book, “The Straw Men,” (in a slightly tongue in cheek manner on one occasion), but you don’t have to necessarily have read that one first.

My ranking:

Brown Belt

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