Book Review: The Runaway by Nick Petrie

In Nick Petrie's The Runaway Peter Ash rescues a stranded woman but quickly finds she’s in far deeper trouble than he could ever imagine.

Peter Ash just can’t help but be a Good Samaritan. And, once again, that need to help others has thrown him headfirst into dangerous gunfire.

It all starts harmlessly enough, when he sees an incredibly pregnant woman by the side of the road. There’s no way any semi-decent man could drive by such a lady in obvious distress, and Peter’s quick to throw open his door and offer her a lift.

But within minutes, the pair are being pursued by the young woman’s husband. An ex-cop, she briefly explains. A man who’s already killed two people—that she knows of.

“What does your husband want?”

 

“He wants me.” Her fingers worried at the hem of her skirt. The dress was a pale print, but the hem had a faint blue pattern, like embroidery.

 

“What will he do?”

 

“Take me back to the home place.” Her lips were pressed into a thin line, her shoulders curled forward over her belly like all the air had gone out of her. “He’s a bad man. I was leaving him.” She didn’t look at Peter. “Sorry. You shouldn’t have stopped to help.”

 

“Somebody had to,” Peter said. “Might as well be me.”

 

As if he had a choice in the matter. He wasn’t built to turn away from someone else’s trouble. As far as he knew, he’d been that way since he was born. The Corps and the war had only sharpened the edge.

The woman—whose name is Helene, though Peter doesn’t find that out for some time—doesn’t realize just how lucky she is to cross paths with the ex-Marine. Despite his sometimes debilitating PTSD, which manifests as terrible static whenever he’s in buildings, Peter is extremely talented at saving people. 

With his vast combat experience, wide array of weaponry knowledge and survival techniques, and his extremely fit body, capable of great violence, few men are better suited to take on trucks packed with gunmen in order to rescue desperate women.

As a Recon Marine lieutenant, the tip of the spear for eight long years, he found he was better in a combat zone than he was on leave. His brain had rewired itself so profoundly for the fight that he could never quite turn off the reflex for war…

 

Unable to function in the civilian world, he’d walked away from everything for more than a year, living out of a backpack, sleeping in the open and hoping the purity of the high granite peaks would set him right, take away the white static and wire his brain back the way it used to be.

 

It didn’t help.

 

But meeting June Cassidy did. She’d given him both a reason to change and the kick in the ass he’d needed to put in the effort. He’d also gotten lucky in finding a shrink who was a combat vet himself.

 

Mostly the war lived in him now like a hungry wolf, curled nose to tail as if asleep, waiting always for the chance to spring to its feet.

 

Like now.

But while Peter is no stranger to violence, and honestly eager to mete it out to deserving parties, he’s still, fundamentally, a good man. Respectful, loyal, kind, and unwilling to endanger any innocent bystanders even if it would give him an edge over his foes, he really puts the hard work in to make things right for Helene after a mere handful of minutes of acquaintance, maintaining his status as my favorite action hero in recent years.

Meanwhile, as Peter’s story unfolds in the present, we’re also shown Helene’s past. How she ended up by the side of that road so heavily pregnant and so determined to escape. With a poverty-stricken background marked only by loss, want, and spirit-breaking options, it’s hardly a surprise that she would tie herself to the first friendly man to pass through the gas station where she worked.

But unfortunately for Helene, Roy’s temporary rescue from her hellish living situation only takes her from bad to worse. Turns out the mysterious former cop with a charming smile is now a traveling thief who, along with a team of other hard men, targets the vacation homes of the mega-rich—and isn’t afraid to kill to get away scot-free. 

Almost immediately after their rushed marriage, Roy locks Helene away at his “home place”, a remote farm, miles from any helpful neighbors. Not long after, she realizes she’s pregnant and even more trapped than she’d been in her awful hometown. 

At least, until she meets Peter Ash eight months later. A genuinely good man willing to brave Roy and his men, willing to outrun gunfire and use his tactical skills to turn the tables on the violent, possessive thieves.

He hoped the pregnant woman didn’t disclose that she’d told Peter about the home place. Or that Peter had said he would come for her. If not, her husband would simply think Peter was looking for help, that he’d head toward the nearest house, looking for a phone so he could call the police. What any normal person would do when strangers began shooting at them.

 

That wasn’t Peter’s plan.

 

He wasn’t exactly normal.

Yet again, Nick Petrie delivers a pulse-pounding thriller studded with action-packed scenes and solid stakes. The man has such a knack for building the suspense until we’re left squirming at the edge of our seats. The cat-and-mouse game between Peter and Roy’s men unfolds quickly, over the space of just a couple days, but by interspersing the current action with Helene’s back-story, Petrie draws it out until we’re aching to know what happens next, leaving us sprinting through the many short chapters at a breathless pace to reach the bloody end as quickly as we can.

It always impresses me, too, how Petrie so skillfully sets the scene and builds the atmosphere. This time, Peter finds himself running across empty plains and corporate farms of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, and it’s not hard to imagine the cold wind and unsettling sense of dangerous exposure. 

The supporting characters are, as to be expected from the Peter Ash series, very colorful, from Roy’s unusual partner Frank to Bobbie, the no-nonsense excavator operator with a vicious coyote hybrid named Cupcake. Part of the fun of this series is seeing just what new weirdoes Peter will find himself allied with or confronting in a life-or-death struggle.

And the lady at the heart of the story, Helene, makes quite the impact. She’s both a poor victim and a resilient survivor you sincerely hope will ultimately find security, a young woman plenty of female readers will sympathize with from page one. She’s only ever been given the shit-end of the stick, but she still hasn’t lost her fire and determination. Truly, a gal worthy of Peter’s best efforts (and the many injuries he collects along the way). 

As is ever the case when I finish a Peter Ash novel, I’m already looking forward to the next adventure. Here’s hoping Petrie, like Peter, never runs out of fuel and continues to deliver the very satisfying goods.

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Comments

  1. leadingaccess

    The Runaway is a fantastic book. Peter Ash saves a stranded woman, only to discover she’s in considerably more peril than he ever imagined.

  2. zoebishup

    Thank you for posting such a great information

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