by OMJ Ryan
eARC, 331 pg.
Inkubator Books, 2019
Read: May 2, 2019
Marty had built his career on this kind of ill-informed information delivery derived from minimal facts. Until this moment, he had never appreciated the damage his ruthless ‘hunting’ had inflicted on so many innocent people caught in difficult situations. He had lived by the mantra, ‘throw enough mud and eventually some sticks.’It had never been truer than right now, ironically. The realisation of who and what he had become over the years left him feeling sick to his stomach.
Frequently, I have said that what you think of a particular book’s protagonist is going to determine what you think of the book — for example, if you don’t like Mark Whatney after a few pages, set The Martian aside — you’re not going to like the book. Or a certain protagonist’s charm or whatever is going to make up for some flaws in a book. That is not the case at all here — in fact, OMJ Ryan has pulled off the difficult feat of writing an entertaining and gripping novel featuring a character that I couldn’t stand. Honestly, at more than one point I thought I’d be okay with Marty Michaels spending the rest of his life in prison — if not for the miscarriage of justice and the fact that the real killer got away scot-free.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself — apparently, I needed to get that off my chest. So, Marty Michaels — a superstar of British radio (because, those things still exist?) — wakes up in a hotel room he doesn’t remember checking into after a night of drinking that he remembers almost none of. He stumbles around a bit and finds a dead woman — again, doesn’t remember this woman — in the room. So, naturally, he calls his agent. This is the caliber of person he is. Before his agent can show, the police — who seem to know what to look for — come pounding at the door and throw some cuffs on him and parade him out of the hotel, making sure many cameras get the chance to get photographs. Not that long ago, Marty had done some stories about the local police that had ruined a few careers, and these particular detectives take the opportunity for a little revenge.
In the early stages Marty thinks that his fame will get him out of the trouble he’s found himself in, or that it’ll all blow over quickly (probably aided by his celebrity). But it doesn’t, and he soon has to deal with the reality that he’s bound for prison unless something truly remarkable happens. His agent appears to be as loyal as you could want in a friend, his lawyer is about as smart as you could want (we’re told, I’d appreciate seeing more evidence), but they’re about all he’s got going for him. The evidence against him is overwhelming, the media smells blood in the water and they’re ready to tear him to shreds, and Marty is his own worst enemy doing stupid, reckless, ill-advised things (almost all of which are contra his lawyer’s advice) that keep getting him in more and more trouble.
After a week or so of this, Marty starts doing stupid, reckless and ill-advised things that are also actually constructive — he realizes that he can’t count on anyone else to help him prove his innocence and finds the best kind of ally for this kind of situation — a fellow journalist who believes him and is desperate to uncover what’s happening. Not for Marty’s benefit, but for the story. As far as the police are concerned they have their man — Marty’s two associates aren’t that much help — on his own (or with this ally) do enough to uncover the truth about what happened in that hotel room?
Ryan’s got a very complex novel here for us. Not the kind of complexity that will cost him readers because it’s too much to keep track of, but (thankfully) the kind of complexity that makes you more curious at every turn. The pacing is fantastic, the pages just melt away without you noticing because all you care about is finding out what happened. Everything else — including Marty’s well-being and lack of character — is tertiary at best.
It takes a long time (arguably too long) before Ryan tries to give us reasons for wanting to like Marty — and I don’t think they work (maybe if they’d been presented earlier), he’s a short-sighted, self-involved, self-important numbskull. Now, almost everything he does make sense given the context and are probably the same kind of stupid reactions 98% of people would naturally have in the face of the legal situation. But that didn’t once stop me from muttering (or jotting a note) about what a dunce Marty’s being at any given point.
This is very effective, entertaining and gripping. It’s not a perfect thriller, but it’s really good, and the flaws are minor and easily ignored. I would like to see what Ryan’s capable of with a protagonist I care about, but I’d be willing to try another adventure with a jackwagon like Marty Michaels if Ryan can make the circumstances as interesting. I recommend this one to the thriller readers out there, you’ll enjoy this ride.
My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided (including a copy of the book).