Here again, two weeks in a row!
I have begun a reflection/review on The Burgess Boys, but once again, I got caught up in reading and put aside my writing. So I took a break from thinking about brothers Bob and Jim to read about completely different characters – brothers Patrick and Jack.
I also turned from from literary fiction,back to crime. Amazon sent me a link on what the author Michael Connelly is reading. I love Connelly’s work, so I decided to read the first book on his list, Michael Koryta’s Those Who Wish Me Dead. Not Connelly, but good nevertheless.
Those Who Wish Me Dead places a 14-year-old Jace Wilson in an alternative to a witness protection program after he sees two men murder another. Jace becomes Connor and joins a survival program for troubled teens in the mountains of Montana under the direction of Ethan Serbin. Along with eight or so other boys he will live in the mountains and learn to survive and, his parents believe, no one will know to follow him there.
Except the brutal Blackwell brothers somehow do and kill and hurt others along the way in their pursuit of Jace. What was to be survival school turns into a real survival situation for both instructor and teen as Jace is hunted down by calculating predators. Along the way the brothers threaten and use a sheriff, then Ethan’s wife Allison, then Ethan to find Jace.
Two elements of Koryta’s craft standout.
First, dialogue. The Blackstone brothers converse about Allison, then Ethan, in the presence of each as if they weren’t there (the way not-so-professional pediatricians or teachers might talk to parents about a child while the child is present). They objectify their prey even as they show how they live in a world all their own. The result, coupled with their brutality, is truly creepy.
Second, Koryta’s ability to insert orienteering skills and survival lessons – how to create shelter from a plastic sheet, how to build a fire, how to think like a survivor into his story adds interesting expert information. He furthers the survival element by adding fire and a fire-fighting expert Hannah Faber, who joins Jace in his quest to escape the Blackstone brothers.
In an ironic coincidence in my reading life, the Blackstone brothers turn out to be the Burgess brothers. Thomas and Michael Burgess took on the aliases Patrick and Jack Blackstone after arriving from Australia.
The Burgess Boys--Jim and Bob -- are much more complex and civilized (and harder to write about) than Burgess brothers Thomas and Michael, but stories of both engage me in very different ways.
Next on reading list: Chris Bohjalian’s The Sandcastle Girls(for book group) and Niall Williams’s History of Rain (another long-listed Booker).