Review: Jeff Abbott's stand-alone novel Trust Me is a fairly routine "chase" thriller that presents an intriguing supposition but never fully realizes its potential.
The person being chased is Luke Dantry, the 24-year-old stepson of a think tank analyst, who's working on a project he refers to as Night Road, a plan to identify potential terrorists using online social networks. He's kidnapped at gunpoint from his home town of Austin and forced to drive to Houston, where he witnesses his abductor kill a homeless man. Luke's chasers are pretty much everyone else in the book, and include the authorities, who captured the murder on a security camera and assume Luke was in on it. At first, Luke simply wants to be free, but he quickly realizes that he's not sure who to trust, especially after his stepfather refuses to discuss a ransom demand for his release. Luke manages to escape, and turns to the only people who he believes can help him: the anonymous would-be terrorists that make up the Night Road, with whom he's developed a mutually trusting relationship online.
Trust Me starts quickly, with a pace that doesn't let up for the first 100 pages or so. But then the story begins to get a bit repetitive and doesn't develop much beyond this: Luke finds himself in yet another precarious situation, and he needs to devise yet another clever way to get out of it all the while learning a bit more about the people chasing him, and who, if any, can be trusted.
Luke, as the principal character, is portrayed as smart and resourceful, but also impulsive, naive and gullible, an interesting combination that works within the context of the plot and helps keep the reader's interest from waning too much. But the other characters are given mostly formulaic personalities and traits, their actions (and intents) predictable.
Effective thrillers have to, or at least should, possess some baseline level of credibility to be enjoyable, where people do, or don't do, something for a reason. It doesn't necessarily have to be a reasonable reason, but it should exist. And this is where Trust Me generally misses the mark. A question frequently asked by the characters in the book is a relevant one: What is Hellfire? But there's a related question that isn't asked, nor answered: Why Hellfire? This latter question is, arguably, more important to the premise of the story than what it is, yet it's never addressed in any meaningful way. The Night Road is described as, "So many people, all with their own agenda, their own skills, their own cause, trading their brilliance and their resources, ready to strike against the far wider world. An army, hidden in the shadows, and waging a war that would change the world. … A scary, and a beautiful creature, a beast of justice, was being born." But to what end? For what purpose? For whose justice? In other words, why? Similarly, there's the $50 million that is introduced in the first chapter and which drives much of the action here, yet it, too, isn't fully explained as to why assuming control of it, this particular and not some other $50 million, is so important to so many of the characters. To embarrass the source of the money? To shut down Hellfire? Simple greed or revenge? It's all these unanswered "whys" that prevent this otherwise thoughtful and well-written novel from being a better thriller.
Acknowledgment: Goldberg McDuffie Communications provided a copy of Trust Me for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Trust Me: Austin, Houston, Texas
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Trust Me by Jeff Abbott
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $25.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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