THE DRIFTER by Nicholas Petrie
Kirkus Star


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A debut thriller that raises questions about domestic terror and the way the American government treats its war veterans.

In the prologue, someone identified only as "the man in the black canvas chore coat” buys fertilizer at a farm supply store,clearly intending to build a bomb and evoking parallels to Timothy McVeigh. Meanwhile, Marine veteran Peter Ash sets out to repair the broken-down Milwaukee home of Jimmy Johnson, a comrade who’d committed suicide. Feeling responsible as Jimmy’s former commander, Peter tells widow Dinah Johnson that his work is part of a Marine program to assist returning vets. No such program exists, but he knows Dinah would refuse his charity, and he likes fixing old houses anyway. Under the porch he discovers a suitcase that’s guarded by a fearsome pit bull. He improvises a clever way to control the dog and finds $400,000 and bars of C4 explosive in the suitcase, hinting at a horrific attack in the wind. Ignorant of the explosives, Dinah wants no part of the money. But a scar-faced stranger is watching the house, and Peter wants to know why—perhaps the man is looking for the suitcase. The enormous dog had been Jimmy's and is named Mingus, after the jazz great Charles Mingus. The snarling monster has an overpowering stench, “a stink sharp enough to cut.” Throughout the story, Peter feels “white static” in his head anytime he’s indoors, a combat legacy that threatens to incapacitate him. Peter talks to detective Sam Lipsky about the suicide while Dinah and Peter try to find out where the money came from. Midden, the guy in the chore coat, is part of a small group of angry vets who want to teach big banks a lesson: “that the people run this country.” Now the story is about much more than Peter defeating his demons; it's about America's sorry treatment of veterans and the desperate measures a few of them might take. Meanwhile, when Peter learns the truth about Jimmy, his mission changes. The relationship between Peter and Mingus is entertaining and reveals a lot about the man’s character.

A powerful, empathetic, and entertaining tale about the plight many combat veterans face when they come home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Top-notch storytelling.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-399-17456-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2015


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