From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
When New York editor Richard Marder receives a ticking-time-bomb diagnosis from his doctor, he settles his affairs (he's secretly rich), packs his guns (he's a crack shot), and drives to Mexico to bury his wife's ashes in her native land. Before she died, Chole went insane after a drug lord murdered her parents Marder, we suspect, intends revenge. He's joined by Skelly, a comrade-in-arms in Vietnam and now a mysterious security consultant. But events take a surprising turn. Marder buys a huge estate and, finding it occupied by squatters, helps them create a livable village with help from his recently arrived daughter, Carmel. And when narcotraficantes claim the land, Marder and Skelly arm the campesinos for a dramatic defense. All rich and fascinating stuff, but the emotional center feels off; Marder faces death with aplomb, but his jaunty tone is jarring. And, in both his Vietnam flashbacks and the action in Mexico, salt-of-the-earth locals are mere vehicles for a rich, white guy's personal journey. Gruber can be great (as in The Good Son, 2010), but this one can be frustrating.--Graff, Keir Copyright 2010 Booklist
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The diagnosis of an inoperative brain tumor rouses New York book editor Richard Marder's desire for revenge in this convoluted, overwrought stand-alone from bestseller Gruber (The Good Son). Feeling he has nothing to lose, Marder puts his business affairs in order and buys a palatial beachfront estate in Mexico, where he plans to spend his last days tracking down the men who murdered his late wife's parents. Marder enlists the help of a fellow Vietnam vet, Patrick Francis Skelly, and together these old soldiers end up taking on two Mexican drug cartels that are at war with each other. The plot predictably disintegrates into a frenzy of battle scenes as Marder and Skelly, aided by the families who are squatters on the estate's grounds, make the most of a seemingly unlimited arsenal. Fans of action films starring Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone may be entertained, but readers should be prepared for one-dimensional characters and preposterous twists toward the finale. Agent: Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Rick Marder's death sentence is no spoiler alert; it is telegraphed on the very first page of Gruber's seventh novel (after The Good Son).The surprise comes in how this fastidious book editor, after his brain tumor diagnosis, chooses to spend his final months packing a large supply of cash and guns into an RV for a trip down to Mexico on a deeply personal mission. Accompanying him on this trip are memories of his time in Vietnam and army friend Skelly, a violent wild card whose colorful presence skirts close to cliche without quite crossing over. Marder's war experiences are not all that haunt him, as memories of his late wife, Chole, and family are never far behind. The manner of Chole's death and his relations with his children, in particular his daughter Carmel, are a major part of the plot. Some of the Vietnam flashbacks feel forced, but when the work focuses on Marder, his daughter and Mexican culture, it shines. Verdict Despite some flaws, this novel will please readers who enjoy their thrillers on the literary side. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]-Julie Elliott, Indiana Univ. Lib., South Bend (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.