Title: Life or Death by Michael Robotham
Publisher: Mullholland Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 449 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Why would a man serving a long prison sentence escape the day before he’s due to be released?
Audie Palmer has spent ten years in a Texas prison after pleading guilty to a robbery in which four people died and seven million dollars went missing. During that time he has suffered repeated beatings, stabbings and threats by inmates and guards, all desperate to answer the same question: where’s the money?
On the day before Audie is due to be released, he suddenly vanishes. Now everybody is searching for him – the police, FBI, gangsters and other powerful figures – but Audie isn’t running to save his own life. Instead, he’s trying to save someone else’s.
Michael Robotham has created the ultimate underdog hero, an honorable criminal shrouded in mystery and ready to lead readers on a remarkable chase.
Set in Texas, Michael Robotham’s newest release, Life or Death, is an absolutely outstanding mystery about a prisoner who escapes one day before his release from prison. By all accounts, Audie Palmer is a very intelligent man so what on earth would prompt him to make such a foolhardy decision? The answer to that question can only be found in the tangled web of secrets surrounding the armored car heist and the unrecovered seven million dollars from the robbery.
Audie has been a surprisingly model prisoner throughout his incarceration and he has managed to survive numerous attempts on his life by both fellow inmates and dishonest guards. He has never discussed the robbery nor has he disclosed the whereabouts of the missing money. When he first escapes, he does not appear to have a clear plan or destination in mind and there is no obvious reason for his prison break.
The news about Audie’s escape is stunning and no one is more shocked than his close friend and fellow inmate Moss Webster. Moss has no clue why Audie would escape, and in fact, he is a little hurt that Audie did not confide in him. No one in the prison believes Moss’s claims of ignorance and he endures a fairly violent punishment for his perceived lack of forthrightness with authorities.
FBI Special Agent Desiree Furness is equally shocked by Audie’s disappearance. Although she did not work on the original robbery, she was later assigned to the case once the trail for the money and one of the alleged robbers went cold. Throughout the manhunt for Audie, Desiree is stymied by the lack of a clear motive for his escape and she eventually grows suspicious that there is more to the original case than meets the eye.
Sheriff Ryan Valdez is the arresting officer from the armored truck robbery and he is one of the first to arrive at the prison once news of Audie’s escape emerges. On the surface, his motive for inserting himself into the search for Audie seems plausible. However it is soon clear that there might a far more sinister reason for his involvement in the current case.
The truth about Audie and the armored truck robbery is slowly revealed through flashbacks. At one time, Audie had a bright future but his older brother’s criminal activities put Audie under a cloud of suspicion that set him on a collision course with disaster. After losing his college scholarship, Audie drifted along until he lost his heart to a beautiful young woman and their effort to begin a new life takes a very tragic turn. Now Audie is determined to right a horrific wrong, but will he accomplish his goal before his luck runs out?
Life or Death is a riveting and intriguing mystery. Audie is an extremely sympathetic and likable character and it impossible not to root for him despite not having all of the facts about him, his past or the events that led to his incarceration. The novel is well-written and the plot is unique and engaging. Although it is a bit of a slow starter, Life or Death quickly gains momentum and thunders to pulse pounding and exciting conclusion and Michael Robotham wraps up all of the loose ends with a very satisfying epilogue. An exceptional read that I highly recommend to anyone who reads crime dramas.