Thursday, December 11, 2014

THE AX by Donald E. Westlake


The Ax starts strong with a great plot that is irresistible and tailor-made for a modern noir tale. Burke Devore has been laid off from his job as a manager at a paper manufacturer and has been jobless for two years. In a desperate attempt to land a job, he gathers together resumes of men that could be seen as his competition, and proceeds to take the steps that would guarantee his resume would be at the top of the pile: killing his competition one by one. 
"What it comes down to is, the CEOs, and the stockholders who put them there, are the enemy, but they are not the problem. They are society's problem, but they are not my personal problem.
These six resumés. These are my personal problem."
I was struck by how believable the entire situation was. This type of story could have easily succumbed to convenient plot-points and fantastical feats of ability by the protagonist. But I never felt a false note in the entire novel. Another risk is that the developments could have easily gotten repetitive. But incredibly, the book is still intensely readable and well-paced, with each murder-attempt feeling fresh and suspenseful.

The novel put you right into the mind of Burke, a man in a situation that we can all relate to in this modern job market. I could especially relate to him, being a freelance worker and having to deal with competition everyday. I was with him all the way. I related to his desperate need to take action, I felt his frustrations every time his plans met another obstacle, cheered for him every time he cleverly got his way out of trouble, and morbidly enough, I wanted to see him succeed.

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