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Monday, August 26, 2013

The Return by Michael Gruber

**The Return by Michael Gruber**

 I received a free ARC from Library Thing Early Readers in exchange for an honest review. A man, Richard Marder, goes to his doctor for a check up and is told he has an inoperable brain abnormality which could kill him at any moment, or it could stay where it is, growing, and eventually robbing him of his faculties. Marder decides to make the most of the time he has left, betting on the hope that he will be granted enough time to make right some wrongs in his life. Since he has no noticeable symptoms, at least for the immediate present, he is able to put all his affairs in order, draw on his considerable fortune, and buy a place in Mexico from which he plans to set in motion a scheme to bring justice to those who killed his wife's family. He enlists the help of his long time friend and "partner in crime", Patrick Francis Skelly. Skelly is somewhat of a mystery. He served in Vietnam with Marder, so Marder is aware how far Skelly will go to achieve a mission, but no one else knows much about the real person since Skelly has lived his life under the radar. The same could be said for Marder, in that even his own family is unaware of many things about him. Neither man is who they appear to be.

 This sets the stage for a plan that involves many different twists and turns, all of which combine to make a tense, action filled, plot the result of which is vengeance for the senseless murder of a family, but it also hopefully serves as a remedy for Marder's self-inflicted guilt over his wife's death. I was particularly enthusiastic about reading **The Return** after reading **The Good Son** which Stephen King praised as his Favorite Book Of The Year. King also recommended that President Obama read **The Good Son**, and after reading it myself, I now understand why. Both **The Good Son** and **The Return** could happen under the right circumstances with the right combination of people.

 Reading **The Return** was not a fast-read for me. It was obvious to me from the start that Michael Gruber takes his time revealing his characters and the story they are telling. Because of his care to detail for his characters, I felt like I understood their motivations. A particularly special part of this story is the relationship between Malder and his daughter, Statch. (Most creative idea for a nickname I've ever come across in fiction.) In addition to telling a fascinating story, Gruber also writes about the culture into which Marder plans to immerse himself to exact his revenge. I found that to be a huge bonus for the book because of my limited knowledge of both Mexico, the spiritual beliefs there, and the drug culture as it affects people who want nothing more than a peaceful existence. That seems to be a theme in Gruber's books -- to give his readers a closer look at cultures and the mind-set of those therein that we can't get from reading travel brochures or listening to languages we don't understand. I was very pleased to receive this book from Library Thing Early Readers, and I highly recommend it to other readers who enjoy good writing, suspense, and learning about other cultures. You can't get all that packaged anywhere better than **The Return**.

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