One of the most original and tense ideas for a main plotline, Life or Death is about an escaped convict named Audie Palmer who was responsible for a truck robbery of seven-million dollars that resulted in a crash that killed this unidentified woman and a mass shooting. Despite all this, the money was never found. The thing is, Audie got ten years for the robbery, became a target everywhere in the prison due to this lost money and escaped the day right before his release. So of course the authorities can't just leave him alone. When he gets caught, he'll get another twenty years, they say. What drew me to this book was I remember hearing about a similar situation where a man escaped from jail three days before his parole meeting, probably afraid he would be denied bail anyway and didn't want to have to go through that. I didn't think this would be the case, though. So now Audie is running aimlessly. Or does he actually have an aim?
This is one of those books that shifts between not just characters, but timelines too. You may tell when it shifts to when Audie was just a young man looking for work and mourning for his troublemaker of a brother, Carl, mostly because except for that time, this book is in the present tense. (You know something? Carl seems to be a common name for prison books. Carl Anderson from The Rig, Carl Donovan from Lockdown, and now here.) But this is okay because we get to see the story and mystery unfold. There is a certain prisoner who gets to go to a restaurant with money and orders so much food it made me a little nauseated, but I think that that's kind of how someone who was in jail for as long as he was would function. Imagine more than a decade of prison food. There is also of course, an FBI agent named Desiree, who's, well, Lord Farquadd short, which helped me remember her. I'd like to see more cops like her in life. She's as persistent as any cop but independent and doesn't resort to violence. And it's amazing how Audie Palmer can function on the outside. He may be an escaped convict, but he is brave and honest. Well, as honest as a criminal can get. There's another character we meet named Belita who has a vital role in the story. Her character is very interesting. She's very feisty and punchy and I didn't like her that much, but we see her back story of abuse and poverty and I could sort of see how that would make someone mad.
Behind all this character development though, is a mystery, and I expected this to be a shootout thriller and it isn't quite that, but as the characters were closing in on each other, I found it nearly impossible to put down nonetheless and kept wondering where everyone would end up and there wasn't a single thing I predicted, really. Except near the end where I put my hand over my mouth and thought, "No way. This has to be the reason. Is it...Yes, it is!" And this book is certainly not without its thrills. This is one of those rare examples when the drama can be as high as being at gunpoint with a million officers. While I wish it went a little farther, the ending left me cheering on the inside and giddy with happiness. Basically, this is a book that I think you really should read. Yeah, it's an adult book. So what? I can't wait for the movie rights to be bought and I can't wait to audition for this particular role...
This book features two of the most unforgettable and strong twists you may ever read in a book. Life or Death is certainly one of the most dramatic and heart-juggling book experiences of the last few years.