I am not lost…

February 10, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: GIVE US THIS DAY by Tom Avitabile

I received this book as an ARC through The Story Plant, in exchange for an honest review.

After my somewhat lackluster experience with thrillers when I read and reviewed BLIND JUSTICE, I was a little hesitant to read GIVE US THIS DAY. Luckily, one of my fellow reviewers and someone whose opinion I can usually bank on, was familiar with the author and very interested in the book. I let him read it first, waiting for judgment before taking on the book myself. He seemed pleased with the book by the end, and so I walked in more hopeful than I had been at the start.

The book follows Brooke Burrell, a woman retired from the FBI in hopes of living a simple and calm life with her submarine driver husband. But she’s taking on simple little jobs while her husband is deployed…and suddenly something which was meant to be average is proving to be anything but. Every witness she had is dead. The criminals in question have vanished from every database. They’re blowing up buildings and seem dead-set on devastating the city and taking everyone down with them. And she has no idea who they are, but she needs to find out before no one is left alive to do it.

My basic trouble with thrillers has always been the body count. I treat every character like someone in A Song of Ice and Fire; no one is going to last the chapter, named or not. The difference with GRRM’s writing is that the deaths happen in clusters, and seem to happen for a reason. Thrillers seem to kill people because they can/“should.” It gets tiring, and by the end of the book I feel tired.

Avitabile manages to keep the body count relatively high without ever making me feel overwhelmed, and I think I’ve finally put my finger on what the difference is: his villains don’t always win. Sometimes their plans blow up in their face. Sometimes they’re the ones who gets foiled, sometimes they’re fooled by the heroes. Not everyone the bad guys target dies—and that makes all the difference. It takes the inevitability, the despair out of it. There’s a chance. Not everyone is hopeless.

There are still a few things that bugged me: standing out the most, the tendency to repeat things over and over again. It seemed like every time Brooke’s husband was brought up, we had to be re-reminded of his name, and oftentimes his job. I’ve had an on-going joke from the musical rendition of The Secret Garden that the boy Mary befriends is named “Martha’s-brother-Dickon” as if it’s all one word since he’s almost never referred to any other way. The husband becomes “Brooke’s-husband-Mush,” or worse yet, we’re given his full name AND his nickname AND his position. I got it fifty pages ago. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it stands out enough to be irritating.

Avitabile is clearly a strong writer who’s done his research. The book feels very real; this is something that could have stepped out of the front page of the newspapers. (In fact, the author puts a specific note in the book saying that while what he describes is possible, it doesn’t happen to the extent he’s described. It’s a good disclaimer, to put the readers’ fears of home-made pseudo-terrorists coming out of reading the book.) Brooke is a well-developed character, balancing the no-nonsense of the FBI agent with the heart of the gentle human. She’s flawed but strong, confident but not without questioning—and each of the other characters are the same.

There’s a good amount of jargon floating around the book, so if you’re not familiar with the acronyms and designations, it’s a bit easy to get lost in the flood of letters and numbers, but this is more of a feature than a flaw. It’s just not a feature that I get anything out of, and detracted a bit from my experience. I don’t hold that against the book. In addition to this, while it’s not necessary to have read Avitabile’s other books, they do seem to be referenced with some regularity. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a foot or two into the world before diving into Brooke’s storyline.

Rating: **** (Recommended)

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