This debut thriller, a trio of novellas, features characters who crave some type of retribution and go about achieving it in diverse ways.
Insaf smartly opens his book with a traditional revenge story. In “Vengeance for a Friend,” a narrator called “Man” awakens to three strangers, who’ve apparently gassed him before shooting and beating to death his best friend, Mike. The narrator, a former homeless street fighter whom Mike had taken in, narrowly escapes when the three men set the house afire. He tracks down one of the killers whom he’s dubbed The Smoker (a cigarette perpetually dangling from his lips) and enacts swift and bloody vengeance. The same fate will surely befall the other two, provided he can find them. Revenge isn’t so clearly defined in the remaining two stories. The somewhat reserved “Vengeance for a Life” follows Sam Chance, whose daughter Lucy’s death from leukemia led to his mental collapse. The plot largely consists of Sam’s sessions with psychiatrist Dr. Garrett, who tries to help the suicidal father overcome his guilt, having left his family when he could no longer bear seeing his sickly daughter. The titular vengeance—whose or why—isn’t revealed until later, with a conclusion that, though somber, is surprisingly bittersweet. The final story, “Vengeance for Love,” is both the best and most exhilarating. In it, poker player Striker’s just walked away from a tournament win with a cool $1.6 million. A raspy-voiced anonymous caller, however, wants the cash for himself. He’s kidnapped Dave, Striker’s pal and benefactor, who provided him with seed money for the tourney. The caller likewise knows about Striker’s family, and soon his wife and daughter are in peril as well. Insaf’s prose is straightforward, befitting characters like the narrator in “Friend,” whose single-minded goal is the sole driving force. There’s little humor, but when it does pop up, it’s certainly hard to miss, particularly when Striker calls the violent, menacing kidnapper a “fat turd.” All three stories have laudable endings, but “Love” is a slam-dunk and sure to make most readers peruse the tale again—or possibly the entire book.
Potent stories and strong-willed characters converge to form a well-rounded collection.