February 18, 2014
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Sam Dryden, retired special forces, lives a quiet life in a small town on the coast of Southern California. While out on a run in the middle of the night, a young girl runs into him on the seaside boardwalk. Barefoot and terrified, she’s running from a group of heavily armed men with one clear goal—to kill the fleeing child. After Dryden helps her evade her pursuers, he learns that the eleven year old, for as long as she can remember, has been kept in a secret prison by forces within the government. But she doesn’t know much beyond her own name, Rachel. She only remembers the past two months of her life—and that she has a skill that makes her very dangerous to these men and the hidden men in charge.
Dryden, who lost his wife and young daughter in an accident five years ago, agrees to help her try to unravel her own past and make sense of it, to protect her from the people who are moving heaven and earth to find them both. Although Dryden is only one man, he’s a man with the extraordinary skills and experience—as a Ranger, a Delta, and five years doing off-the-book black ops with an elite team. But, as he slowly begins to discover, the highly trained paramilitary forces on their heels is the only part of the danger they must face. Will Rachel’s own unremembered past be the most deadly of them all?
Runner has elements that make it a great thriller: unexpected twists, tension, danger and you care what happens to the characters. Not 'just' a thriller novel, though, Runner has a bit of a science-fiction edge to it. The concept, however, is done in a way that makes it very realistic. It moves beyond the realm of reality but is executed so well - with background, explanation, details - that it never strays past the believable.
It's a bit like Jack Reacher meets The Men Who Stare at Goats. The tough, talented military character, along with the darker, perhaps stranger, side of the government.
The beginning of the novel, when the two characters meet and are immediately in danger felt almost light on the tension. They're in fear, quite literally, for their lives but seemed rather calm. As the story progressed and more about both Sam and Rachel became known, that lack of anxiety started to work and make sense. It also wasn't permanent. As the search for Rachel ramps up, as both Dryden and readers learn what her skill is, the tension, anxiety, as well as the intrigue, are taken up a notch.
Dryden's background makes his assisting Rachel possible, giving him knowledge that not only helps them, but creates an increasingly interesting character. The plot of Runner truly facilitates in the gradual revealing of more and more of his past and who he is. He's a character I look forward to seeing in latter publications in this series.
Rachel's story, from why she was held to her amnesia is so central to the plot that one revelation can completely change the course of the story and characters. While adding to any suspense present, it also leaves readers wanting to know what Rachel doesn't . . . how it will all end.
I'm not sure Rachel is a very believable twelve year old character. Most of the time she seemed older, primarily due to how she spoke, but also that bit of near calm in the beginning. If she had been fourteen, maybe, the age would have better fit the portrayal. Yet for the story she needed to still be a 'kid' and not a teen or young woman so I can see why she was twelve. It makes her old enough to handle what's happening - physically, at the very least - but keeps her a child and removes any, even remotely possible, sexual anything that might have been present with and older girl.
The relationship between Dryden and Rachel is great. Not only do they both deal with each development very well, but they compliment each other in dealing with them, too. Both characters start off as a bit of a mystery, but as the story unfolds, we learn more about both of them. The developments with Rachel's story affect the action more, Dryden's characters growth and unveiling altering how we see him and how he sees himself and his situation. You're left caring about both of them and understanding their connection.
This is one series I'm glad to have started and I eagerly await the next installment.
(Runner is an adult novel but almost completely YA age appropriate.)
thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my copy to review