Snyder’s (American Warrior, 2004) gritty, unapologetically violent work of crime fiction follows a trio of criminals after they break out of prison.
Oreny “Big” Johnson is an inmate at Horseneck Bay, a level-four, high-security prison facility located in the northwest corner of Washington state. His incarcerated cronies call him “old man,” but he finds out that he has less than a year to live, due to terminal cancer. Johnson, a former celebrated saxophonist whose career and personal life were destroyed by drugs and violence, vows to somehow escape prison, locate approximately $2 million that a former cellmate told him was buried in a remote location in Texas, and die a free (and rich) man. He masterminds an ingenious escape plan that ultimately succeeds in freeing himself and two others: Luke Halprin, an aspiring chef doing time after becoming entangled in his roommate’s drug-dealing operation; and Jaime Torrance, a 17-year old Native American “half-breed” who’s in prison for murder. All three escapees have very different motivations: Johnson wants to die on his own terms, Halprin wants to be reunited with the woman he loves, and Torrance wants to escape the sexual torture of a psychotic corrections officer named Cade. But their already perilous cross-country journey becomes more complicated when they realize that Cade is inexplicably hot on their trail. Although the narrative is shockingly graphic in places and revolves around decidedly unethical characters, it also maintains a powerful introspective undertone throughout. Snyder excellently contrasts Johnson’s spiritual journey of self-acceptance and Cade’s murderous rampage and trail of bloodshed, making both storylines that much more intense. Simultaneously brutal, bloody and beatific, this is crime fiction done right.
A relentlessly paced, unpredictable page-turner powered by well-developed characters.