I love a good smartass. That’s probably why I married my wife. It’s also probably why I dug the hell out of The Reluctant by C.S. Splitter. In fact, I thought so much of it I pestered Splitter until he agreed to sit down for an interview about his book . He was even nice enough to offer up a couple of copies of his book for a giveaway (details of which can be found at the bottom of this post). The Reluctant is the first in a series called The Crayder Chronicles about—brace yourselves—a guy named Tom Crayder. Who would have thought, right? I’m not exactly what genre to put it in—it’s not really a Mystery, and it’s kind of a Thriller, but I’m just going to call it a Crime story and leave it at that.
Genres aside, what really sets the novel apart is the narrative style and voice. As you might have guessed already, the narrator (which would be Tom Crayder, as it’s first person) is a wise-acre of the first order. He’s got more jokes than a stand up comedian, but they never get in the way of the telling of the story. At times tongue-in-cheek, at others hard as nails, it reminds me a lot of Donald E. Westlake, the master of the humorous crime-caper.
As far as the plot goes, it’s something that’s been done before, but Splitter throws enough twists in there to make it his own. It starts out with a bang. Or rather, a crash—I mean, forced landing. Crayder’s consulting business has hit a slow patch recently, and in order to make ends meet he’s taken a couple under the table jobs ferrying men and cash in his Cesna C-180 for a local “businessman” he happens to be friends with. Of course it’s all strictly illegal, so when his plane’s engine conks out in mid-flight, the “forced landing” isn’t the only fancy flying he has to do. He also has to hide his criminal involvement from local law enforcement, weather an FAA investigation, and—perhaps most harrowing of all—make up with his wife for not coming home on time. All of this catches the eye of some very interesting people. After a little test (which involves rescuing a damsel in distress and disposing the dead body that results from said rescue), he is propositioned by an organization that specializes in making up where normal law enforcement drops the ball—or, as the folks at home might recognize it, vigilante justice.
The idea is that Crayder seems to be constantly walking the line in some way or another—with his consulting business, with his airplane gigs on the side, with his marriage—but in the end he’s actually a decent-hearted person. All that line-walking and heart-in-the-right-place stuff turns out to be the perfect combination for a vigilante hit man. Splitter does a good job of illustrating these themes and the moral quandaries they present while keeping the mood light, and that alone takes some talent to do.
Now, if there’s something that could be improved upon (and you knew I was going to point it out if there was), it would have to be a minor structural element that just… got to me. About five chapters into the novel there’s a flashback which explains a little bit of Crayder’s business and why he was on the extra-curricular trip in his plane when it went down. It’s not very long, and before you know it we’re back in business and on with the story. Being the over-analyzing SoB that I am, I can’t help feeling like the flashback was an unnecessary inclusion. The same objective could have been accomplished through a phone call or something like that after the crash, and the use of the flashback felt a little jarring given the rest of the narrative stream. But only a little. And really, if this is the only thing I have to bitch about with the book, it’s got to be pretty damn good, don’t you think? Major props should go to Splitter’s editor as I noticed only one typo in the entire novel. When it comes to self-published fiction (I think that’s what this is, though I’m not exactly sure) that’s kind of like seeing only one piece of trash on the side of the highway in New Jersey—amazing to the point of being miraculous. I give The Reluctant by C.S. Splitter four stars.
If all this talk has whetted your appetite for a good crime thriller, then you’re in luck. The Reluctant is currently available for freesies on Amazon. It’s an ebook version of course, but you can’t hate on a free book no matter the format, especially when it’s as good as this one. And if you’re still not sated, there’s the little matter of the giveaway of the second book in The Crayder Chronicles, another little gem called The Willing.
We’ve got two copies of The Willing to hand out, and if you want one, all you have to do is comment below and leave some sort of contact information so I can get in touch with you if you win. Being a follower is always appreciated, but it’s not necessary to win. The giveaway will be open until midnight (EST) on Saturday, March 3, 2011, after which I will randomly select the winners.
Now go download your free swag and get to commenting!