Friday, June 10, 2011

Book: The Terror of Living, by Urban Waite (2011)

AMC’s The Killing aside, Washington State seems to get short shrift in the popular imagination. But this neck of the deep woods is front, center and fully alive in this strong debut thriller from Urban Waite.

Phil Hunt killed a man during a botched robbery when he was younger. Now in his 50s, he lives just south of Seattle raising horses, supplementing his meager income by bringing in the occasional load of drugs. Deputy Bobby Drake prevents the delivery of one of those shipments, and the tentative grip Hunt had on stability gives way. Soon he’s on the run, hounded by a killer in the employ of his bosses, and his only hope out of trouble is the man who put him there.

Waite’s novel owes a debt to the work of Cormac McCarthy, as indicated by the ponderous title and his implacable hit man. But there’s nothing metaphorical about Grady, an assassin who enjoys his work but is no fearless killing machine. Waite creates a lovely tension between Drake, the lawman struggling to emerge from his father’s crooked shadow, and Hunt, “sure of himself in all the wrong situations. A good man, made up of all the bad things in the world.” Each man also has a spouse supportive in her own way. Muscular prose, relentless pacing, and a true sense of place make this a rock-solid thriller.