A good book grips you. Forces you to keep on turning the pages in anticipation, dreading the moment that would tear apart the world of the protagonist, in whom you see a bit of yourself. Wanting the hero to get what he desires. Michael Robotham’s Life or Death provides those moments, but in sporadic bursts. Every time the plot builds up, the hero gets lost in the labyrinth of past, taking long while to return to the present.
The story revolves around one Audie Palmer, undergoing a 10-year term for a botched up robbery attempt, which left four persons dead and seven million missing. A day before his scheduled release, Audie breaks out of jail, setting into motion a series of events, which would leave many more dead. However, there is reason behind this madness. He undergoes a harrowing time in the prison with every inmate wanting to know what happened to the seven millions. He is abused and attacked. Several attempts are made on his life, but something keeps him going. He has a mission. He has to escape a powerful enemy to save his life, and that of a loved one. He has to come true on a promise made several years ago. Make right a wrong. **
A man wronged, doing time for something he did not do. Rings a bell? Yeah, it has something of **Shawshank Redemption **and **The Count of Monte Cristo **in it. However, there are differences, but minute. The protagonist takes matters into his hands to seek justice, his own way. It’s a battle between right and wrong, justice and injustice.
Existence of God; how our actions determine our fate; how our lives get entwined with that of others; and how sometimes man is rendered incapable by fate that no matter how he planned his life, things go wrong, out of control are some of the basic ideas the plot revolves around. Audie is shown as a phlegmatic protagonist, the very epitome of suffering in silence. He languishes in jail, but does not allow the ordeal to get better of him.
The writer fails to maintain the tempo. He takes a long while, to the point of being dreary, to build up the story. Fails to maintain suspense and becomes predictable after a while. Audie manages to achieve his end, more due good luck than his pluck. Most of time the story revolves around other characters. Audie gets flashes of attention, and much of which he wastes in lamenting his past. Robotham fails to maintain the atmosphere of tension.
Moreover, his reminiscences become boring after a while. Too much ink is wasted in depicting his past that the focus on present is minimal. Audie is so lost in the past that his present action seems more on a whim than on purpose. Given that baring Audie’s past was necessary, however, its done at the expense of readers’ patience.
Audie finds allies, but little is done to show under what circumstances did they choose to throw in their lot with him. Twists and turns are there, but not the kind that would raise your hair or make you scream out.
The book is pretty average. Not the kind that makes you think about your life or force you to effect changes. However, its not bad either. You would sympathise with Audie, want him to win, hope the bad guys get what they deserve. But, after the last page is finished, there is nothing left to hang on to.
The literary world is saturated with books revolving around the same theme that all the hopes are pinned on seeing some other approach. A mature treatment or a gripping plot. I won’t say that the book is devoid of any merit, but the fact is, it is an average read.