Friday, January 20, 2017

SHE RIDES SHOTGUN by Jordan Harper

She Rides Shotgun was one of my most anticipated releases for 2017, after reading author Jordan Harper's stellar collection of short stories in his debut, Love and Other Wounds, possibly one of the best collections I've read in a while, and becoming an instant fanboy. His first novel doesn't disappoint!

Through a series of unfortunate events, no-good ex-con Nate McClusky lands a death sentence from the white power gang Aryan Steel right before his release. Now a target is not only on his head but also on his ex-wife and his young daughter Polly. After Aryan Steel murders his ex and her new husband, Nate manages to grab Polly just in time, essentially kidnapping her and sparking a desperate trip through Southern California, trying to stay one step ahead of the Steel and the Law, as Nate tries to make up for his mistakes and save the last good thing in his life, all while Polly is forced to grow up faster than she could have ever expected.

This novel really solidified why I enjoy Harper's writing so much. He not only has an effortless way with words and prose, but he's also an accomplished television screenwriter, which probably helped him hone his skills in the way he economically and efficiently details character and themes, with almost no wasted time. And his character work here is great, with the star being young Polly. It's always a real tightrope walk when it comes to writing a child's POV, but I thought that Harper nails it and avoids making her feel too adult, allowing her to exist as a child, but doesn't treat the character with kid gloves. The way her relationship with her father grows and blossoms is another tricky maneuver that Harper scores. It could have easily felt forced and inappropriate, especially with all the violence and death, but he makes it all believable. It's all in the little details. The fact that he does all of this in under 300 pages is another success. And I'm not really sure how Harper was able to get me to care so much about a nameless teddy bear, but for that feat alone this book deserves a bunch of love.

Even aside from all of that, the novel moves at an action-packed pace, with scenes that'll have you gripping your copy tight. I believe that Harper is one of the brightest rising stars in the crime fiction world and here's hoping that this novel shows up in this year's best lists with heaps of award talk.


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