Runner by Patrick Lee is the thriller debut of Sam Dryden, retired special forces, tasked with protecting a powerful young girl from the evil clutches of the government (available February 18, 2014).
Sam Dryden is out for a night time run when he stumbles across Rachel, a frightened child, also running. The big difference is, she’s running away from something, she’s running for her life. People want to hurt her. Specifically, men with guns. They are hunting her. Tempted to keep running or simply call the police, it’s not until Dryden notices Rachel’s primal fear that he commits to helping her. Taking her under his wing, it doesn’t take long before Dryden is forced to start killing people to protect her.
He is good at killing, very good. He has learnt from the best, and he has dealt with the worst. Special Ops, Special Services, it doesn’t really matter. Lee never lets the story slip into sentimentality, nor does he grind out stomach churning descriptions of violence, leaving the reader numb with too much information and as cold as the trail itself with all the unnecessary detail of blood and gore.
After escaping the initial pursuers, Dryden learns that for the past two months, Rachel was being kept in a secret government prison, and that she doesn’t remember anything from before her time at the prison. He also learns that she has a skill – one that makes her very dangerous and makes it clear they can’t stop running.
The content is pretty spectacular in terms of what Lee expects you to believe about Rachel’s power, but believe it I did – and how uncomfortable that made me feel! Everything about Dryden’s skills pale into insignificance compared to what Rachel can do. The relationship between them deepens the longer they are on the run. Dryden sees Rachel’s power unfolding before his very eyes and knows that there is a good chance she will turn them on him. Danger lurks in every page of this iron clad page turner.
“Search the beach. Search beneath the causeway.”
Boots scuffed the wood, then landed hard on the rocks nearby. The glow of the flashlights filled Dryden’s peripheral vision, though for the moment the beams remained pointed toward the sea. The girl hugged him tighter; he thought he could feel her shutting her eyes as she buried her face in his shoulder. The pain in his muscles was beyond burning now, but pain wasn’t the problem. There were ways to discard agony-Dryden had learned them long ago-but at some point his muscles would simply fail. Willpower couldn’t beat physics forever.
He managed to swivel his head a few degrees toward the beach. The flashlight beams finished sweeping the sand, and then one by one they turned to scour the space beneath the boardwalk. Dryden looked upward again, to prevent his eyes from shining. Staring at the planking above his face, he saw the diffused glow as beams passed directly beneath him. If even one of the searchers was clever or suspicious enough to raise his light by two feet, it would all be over. Dryden waited for the blinding glare that would signal that very thing.
It never came.
Things go from bad to worse. The chase is brilliantly executed by Lee, as is the unfolding of the young girl’s power, which appears to be unlimited. Worlds could be conquered by being able to harness and control what she is capable of, particularly by the people who don’t care she is a young girl and a human being. The hunters seem either one step behind or one step ahead of their quarry.
Curren recited a summary of Dryden’s bio, no doubt reading it off a handheld unit. “Sam Dryden. Army right out of high school, Rangers, then Delta for three years. Generalized training along the way, multirole stuff: rotorcraft pilot certification, HALO jumps, like that. Then he resigns from Delta and the record goes black for the next six years.
“There is no such thing as black,” Gaul said.
Dryden is more Bourne than Bourne. There is no man out there who seems to be a fair match, and so it takes a woman’s touch or in Lee’s case, two woman: Audrey and Sandra. Plain, uncomplicated and straightforward they are not. The job is there to be done and unfortunately for Dryden and Rachel, they are the job.
Then came Audrey’s voice, right outside the door. “It’s not true, Sam. Think about it. Is there anything Gaul wouldn’t do to get to us?”
“We know you’re confused,” Sandra said. “Anyone would be, in your position. That’s why Gaul’s doing this; the trick is designed to force you into doubt.”
“Think of it this way,” Audrey said. ”We have all the guns in the world here; I’m sure you know that. If we were bad, wouldn’t we have killed you before this?”
They may have the gunpowder, but they also have the brains, which up the stakes considerably, taking this tale to an explosive and unpredictable finale. If you are wondering what title to spend your hard earned money on, think no more. Spend it on this – you won’t be sorry. Take my word for it.
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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.