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The Return: A Novel Hardcover – September 3, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1St Edition edition (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805091297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805091298
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The diagnosis of an inoperative brain tumor rouses New York book editor Richard Marder's desire for revenge in this convoluted, overwrought stand-alone from bestseller Gruber (The Good Son). Feeling he has nothing to lose, Marder puts his business affairs in order and buys a palatial beachfront estate in Mexico, where he plans to spend his last days tracking down the men who murdered his late wife's parents. Marder enlists the help of a fellow Vietnam vet, Patrick Francis Skelly, and together these old soldiers end up taking on two Mexican drug cartels that are at war with each other. The plot predictably disintegrates into a frenzy of battle scenes as Marder and Skelly, aided by the families who are squatters on the estate's grounds, make the most of a seemingly unlimited arsenal. Fans of action films starring Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone may be entertained, but readers should be prepared for one-dimensional characters and preposterous twists toward the finale. Agent: Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (Sept.)

From Booklist

When New York editor Richard Marder receives a ticking-time-bomb diagnosis from his doctor, he settles his affairs (he’s secretly rich), packs his guns (he’s a crack shot), and drives to Mexico to bury his wife’s ashes in her native land. Before she died, Chole went insane after a drug lord murdered her parents—Marder, we suspect, intends revenge. He’s joined by Skelly, a comrade-in-arms in Vietnam and now a mysterious “security consultant.” But events take a surprising turn. Marder buys a huge estate and, finding it occupied by squatters, helps them create a livable village with help from his recently arrived daughter, Carmel. And when narcotraficantes claim the land, Marder and Skelly arm the campesinos for a dramatic defense. All rich and fascinating stuff, but the emotional center feels off; Marder faces death with aplomb, but his jaunty tone is jarring. And, in both his Vietnam flashbacks and the action in Mexico, salt-of-the-earth locals are mere vehicles for a rich, white guy’s personal journey. Gruber can be great (as in The Good Son, 2010), but this one can be frustrating. --Keir Graff

More About the Author

I was born and raised in New York City, and educated in its public schools. I went to Columbia, earning a BA in English literature.. After college I did editorial work at various small magazines in New York, and then went back to school at City College and got the equivalent of a second BA, in biology. After that I went to the University of Miami and got a masters in marine biology. In 1968-69 I was in the U. S. Army as a medic.

In 1973, I received my Ph.D. in marine sciences, for a study of octopus behavior. Then I was a chef at several Miami restaurants. Then I was a hippie traveling around in a bus and working as a roadie for various rock groups. Then I worked for the county manager of Metropolitan Dade County, as an analyst. Then I was director of planning for the county department of human resources.

I went to Washington DC in 1977, and worked in the Carter White House, Office of Science and Technology Policy. Then I worked in the Environmental Protection Agency as a policy analyst and also as the speechwriter for the Administrator. In 1986, I was promoted to the Senior Executive Service of the U.S., the highest level of the federal civil service. That same year, Robert K. Tanenbaum contacted me and asked me to write a courtroom thriller to be published under his name. I did that, and since then I have also written the first fifteen novels in the popular Butch Karp and Marlene series.

In 1988 I left Washington, D.C. and settled in Seattle, where I worked as a speechwriter and environmental expert for the state land commissioner. I have been a full-time freelance writer since 1990, mostly on the Karp novels, but also doing non-fiction magazine pieces on biology. My first novel under my own name, TROPIC OF NIGHT, was published in 2003 (William Morrow) and a second novel, VALLEY OF BONES, as well as a children's book THE WITCH'S BOY (Harper Collins) came out in 2005. A third thriller for Morrow, NIGHT OF THE JAGUAR is due out in early 2006. I am married, with three grown children and an extremely large dog.

Customer Reviews

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Great characters in a great story.
S. Weiss
Michael Gruber is, by far, one of the best writers of our time--a time when there is so much entertainment competition and a lot of drivel.
sarahshak
The plots have very unexpected twists and turns.
Meribeth Dahlberg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on September 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I really hesitated before placing THE RETURN into any sort of genre fiction box. It certainly has thriller and adventure elements, but it frequently meanders into the cracks and valleys of life, love, friendship and family, before suddenly veering back onto the wild ride that I initially expected when I first picked up the book. Author Michael Gruber kind of sets his own storytelling agenda, and once I got over my own expectations of what constituted the shortest distance between the book's beginning and end, things were just fine in this dark, frequently depressing, and occasionally humorous tale of where longstanding debts are put paid.

There are three primary characters (and a whole bunch of secondary ones) in THE RETURN, all of whom are complex to varying degrees and memorable. Marder kicks things off. He is a freelance book editor who has just gotten the news that he has an inoperable cranial aneurysm, a brain buddy that is going to inconveniently burst on him at an indeterminate time in the future. He doesn't tell anyone about his grim prognosis, not even his daughter Statch (Primary Number Two) or his best friend Skelly (Primary Number Three).

Instead, Marder talks vaguely about taking a long road trip and being out of touch for a bit. The road trip, it turns out, is to a remote area of Mexico where his late wife was born and raised, and where her estranged parents were murdered by a local drug lord. Marder is carrying around several buckets worth of guilt, all of which are related to his wife and her suicide, and his plan is to travel back to her homeland, scatter her ashes at her birthplace, and take out the drug lord before he becomes a member of the Choir Invisible. We learn quickly enough that Marder is capable of doing this.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazonia on October 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I think Michael Gruber is brilliant. His range--in terms of places, cultures, and subcultures--is vast. In some of his books, he has an anthropologist's ear and eye...he engages a romance of the local that makes for satifying reading. My encounter with this particular novel was less of a romance for me than I had expected. And by that I don't mean that I anticipated a romance, genre-wise. I won't rehash the plot, as others have done that ably. For Gruber fans, I'll say this is a shoot-em-up novel. Michael Gruber can do that well but I am among those who prefer that he expend his prodigious talents elsewhere. The characters in this novel, even the young woman (the protagonist's daughter) all engage in killing with nary a thought. (Yes, it's a Gruber novel, so at least one character does very briefly reflect on the fact that he isn't reflecting.) The book assumes the reader will go along with the notion that Mexican narcotraficantes can be killed off--right and left, upside down, every which way--without reflection. (They serve much the same function as Nazis in a certain breed of novel perhaps not dissimilar from this one.) From such a sensitive and intelligent writer, this rather troubles me. I am tempted to say machismo does not become him.

Still, the writing is as good as ever. He has some lovely sentences such as this one, in which the protagonist's daughter (who by the way, is given her own voice) reflects on her father's unexpected and emotional performance at his wife's graveside: "She'd always thought her father was the acme of cool, but with his crack-up at the tomb and now, this pale and sweating, this trembling figure before her, she felt the axis of her life starting to go eccentric." (P297 hard cover) Now, that's really lovely!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sussu on September 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Gruber has done it again: written a gripping, excitingly-plotted thriller with a brain. If you like thoughtful as well as entertaining, you will love this book. A dying man returns to the scene of great personal tragedy, embeds himself in a community and rediscovers the meaning of family. Gruber has a habit of becoming downright folkloristic in all his books, with deeply researched, fascinating background about distant cultures and beliefs. He delivers on that front again, while weaving together a gripping tale of vengeance, violence and deliverance. Don't book many things on the weekend you plan to start a Gruber novel!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nanci Lee Jewell on September 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Action packed story that takes place in modern-day Mexico, with a dueling story of blood soaked Vietnam during the war. Mexico is portrayed as a beguiling, cunning and dangerous place - beautiful but deadly. And the Vietnam story is a wrenching story of blood, loyalty and betrayal. A few too many extraordinary shoot outs - you could almost see the screenplay developing simultaneously - and uber heroics, but overall, a well told, exciting and fully developed story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Townsend on December 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Highly intelligent writing, great plot. I've been impressed with all his books, and wish there were more of them. Amen
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By florida reader on December 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I almost gave 4 stars then re-thought....
I cannot think of any author who writes such a range of books that I have enjoyed so much. My favorites remain the early three set in Miami; I've re-read them several times and keep hoping for a new visit.
The next couple....not so much, and I could not even get through the last one. And they are all so different. It boggles my little brain that one author can handle so many different types books so well. They were well-written, I was just wasn't that interested.
But "The Return" puts him back on top of the heap. This is a wonderful book; especially if you have any interest in contemporary Mexico and/or Vietnam. (actually I am not interested at all in Vietnam, but this was still great).
My only teeny tiny complaint is that I thought the last 60 pages or so really dragged and went on too long.
But I thought he handled the ending really well, and it's all so good, what's a few exrtra words?
Good reviews are harder to write than bad ones. In short, I really, really liked this and am recommending it to friends.
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