An escaped prisoner, locked up for a drug deal gone bad, hopes for a few lucky breaks across Canada and South America.
The hero of the latest novel from Moore (February, 2009, etc.) is David Slaney, who has a quintessential case of warring instincts. As he breaks out of a Nova Scotian prison (how isn’t quite clear), he wants to build a stable, upstanding life for himself, but to do it, he needs to cross Canada and catch up with his former (only lightly punished) partner and arrange one more drug deal. As he hitchhikes and hustles his way west, Moore deploys clipped yet lyrical prose to depict Slaney’s past failures, both in terms of romance and in marijuana smuggling, and introduces Patterson, the undercover detective tasked with tracking him down. Given Patterson’s ease in staying two steps behind his prey (not to mention the novel’s title), Slaney’s fate is never really in doubt. If this book lacks the suspense of a traditional thriller, though, at moments, it smartly captures the sense of alienation that comes with life on the lam. And the book picks up some energy as Slaney journeys to Colombia for a drug run with a drunk captain, his impossibly pretty girlfriend in tow. Moore’s skill at describing Slaney in isolation tends to falter when he interacts with others; the dialogue is generally flat or, in the case of the woman David left behind, overly dramatic. Moore is an established literary novelist taking a stab at a more plot-driven tale, and it’s not a mistake in itself that this doesn’t hew to convention. But the book never quite reconciles Moore’s efforts to complicate Slaney’s character with the stock feel of the surrounding characters and plot lines.
An interesting but often ungainly attempt to blend mood piece and page-turner.