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Ravens Hardcover – July 15, 2009
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Soon after Mitch and Patsy Boatwright, two down-home one-step-above-poor-white Georgians, win the $318 million Max-a-Million jackpot in this stellar thriller from bestseller Green (The Juror), they receive two unwelcome visitors—Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko, who are fleeing nowhere techie jobs in Ohio for a never-never Florida dream. Shaw, the brains, and Romeo, his half-unwilling brawny pawn, threaten to kill the Boatwrights' loved ones unless the couple agree to hand over half their winnings. Through rapidly shifting points of view, especially the clear eyes of daughter Tara Boatwright, a community college student, Green frighteningly and unequivocally shows how victims can come to adore their tormentors, amid a mix of madness, fear, isolation, greed and delusions of power and glory. This exquisite novel of psychological suspense builds to a devastating resolution that will leave readers with the cold shudders for a long time afterward. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Shaw and Romeo, friends from grade school to their present-day labors in dead-end tech-support jobs, are headed for a Florida vacation. In a Georgia convenience store, Shaw learns from a clerk that a local family purchased a lottery ticket worth $318 million, and he hatches a plan to get half of it. His plan is simple: Shaw takes the family “hostage” by telling them that Romeo is driving around their small city, ready to murder their loved ones if they don’t support the ruse that Shaw is due half the winnings. As news of the family’s big win spreads, crowds throng around the house, and the terror inside it grows. Green, the author of the acclaimed The Caveman’s Valentine (2000), is skilled at psychological suspense. More than half a dozen major characters are fully developed, and their evolving reactions to their situations and to other characters are sure to engage readers who like to feel the narrative screws tightening. --Thomas Gaughan
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Shaw concocts the scheme of bluffing the duo into believing that he and Romeo are vicious lethal thugs instead of mentally tired programmers. He informs the Boatwright's that they will hand over half or die along with their loved ones like their twentyish daughter college student Tara. Shocked and frightened Mitch and Patsy agree once they collect their money starting with introducing his lottery partner Shaw at a press conference.
This excellent regional psychological thriller works because of the strong cast who embellishes the story line with local flavoring and brings out the worst in the two wannabe con artists. Intriguingly the Boatwright family may be the victims fearful of the mentally bullying Shaw and the overwhelmingly physical threat from the ironically named Romeo, yet they also fall victims to the Stockholm syndrome as they begin to cherish their avarice banes who hold them hostage for the loot. Fans will enjoy this tense psychological thriller as George Dawes Green shows the human caring side to his major characters as much as their depraved needs. This is a strong exhilarating small town Georgia thriller.
Fast-forward twenty-some years - both Shaw and Romeo have left their their "zombie jobs" in tech-support at Dayton Techworld. They hit the road in Romeo's '91 Tercel and plan to drive to Key West, sell the vehicle, hire out on fishing boats, and work their way to Trinidad, never to return. As far-out as this idea sounds, it is mild compared to the grandiose schemes Shawn will come up with over the course of the novel. And, naturally, Romeo will be manipulated into going along with every one of them. As the duo hits southern Georgia, the car's front tire begins to leak. They pull-off I-95 and stop at a convenience store to borrow a tire gauge and get something cold to drink. It is here they learn that a local family just won $318,000,000. in the MAX A MILLION JACKPOT!! And the winning ticket was bought at this very convenience store the day before! Shaw is filled with rage when he hears the news. "Three hundred and eighteen million dollars thrown away on a family of South Georgia nothings!!"
The two men rent a room in a nearby motel. Shaw surfs the Net. The only information he was able to glean about the winners is that the husband/father owns a copier store in Brunswick, GA. With the help of Yellowbook and Google, he finds the family's name and whereabouts. Mitch and Patsy Boatwright, their twenty-two year-old daughter Tara, and Jase, their eight year-old son, are about to regret their big win big time!
Patsy Boatwright is addicted to gin and tonics and buying lottery tickets. Tara stays away from home on Wednesday nights when the jackpot is announced. Naturally her mother always comes up with the wrong numbers. I mean, what are the odds?? Patsy becomes surly in her disappointment and always picks a fight. But last night's jackpot announcement was extremely different from the thousands which preceded it. Patsy won!! The family is told to keep the news a secret, for their own security, until an announcement is formally made - but big-mouth Jase tells his 3rd grade classmates. Bad luck! While the family giddily makes plans to spend their fortune, McBride and Zderko make plans of a different nature. The increasingly manic Shaw concocts a money-making scheme to get half the winnings. Romeo is bewildered. But his friend informs him that they have the opportunity to change, not only their lives, but the world. Shaw tell Romeo, "I need you to play a kind of role. Like what you'd call an "angel of vengeance."
Shaw calls upon the Boatwrights, posing as a member of the Georgia Lottery Commission. When Mitch Boatwright asks the man to leave, Shaw pulls a gun and threatens to kill them all if they don't cooperate. He tells the family, "If you oppose us in any way, I'll kill the people you love" And where is Romeo? He has been assigned the task of driving around Brunswick, "the Wick," surveilling the Boatwright's family members and friends, from a local map on which Shaw has targeted points of interests. He and Shaw will communicate at specific times by cell phone and if Shaw is in trouble, or if he doesn't answer the phone, Romeo is to proceed to kill everyone on the list. He is Shaw's "enforcer," his "dark servant." Although Romeo is a kind-hearted, compassionate man, which he demonstrates again and again throughout "Ravens," he is , simply, not the brightest bulb in the box. And, he is unable to say "no" to Shaw, his best buddie. There was only one time when he "lost it," to protect his friend, but that was years ago and he has never repeated his violent actions since.
Shaw invents, with the help of the family he holds hostage, what seems to be a plausible story for claiming half of the winnings. They are all terrified into compliance. The family must be kept in constant fear, for themselves and their loved ones, if the plan is to work. Under so much pressure, all involved are close to snapping, especially Romeo, still driving in circles around the town. He cannot work up the anger to kill anyone and is definitely not a cold-blooded murderer. He would rather die, however, than have Shaw call him a coward and a traitor. He is the "cudgel that Shaw McBride is using to terrorize the Boatwrights.
"Ravens" is a taut psychological thriller. George Dawes Green is a master at building tension. I noticed that I was biting my nails about half-way through the book. Just as the reader thinks everything is about to blow-up, the author lifts his foot from the pedal, slightly...then he steps on the gas again. I was riveted by the original storyline and the well developed characters - some of whom are Really characters, especially Nell, the grandmother. There is humor here also, some much needed comic relief. The dialogue is excellent, especially the "texting" language used between Tara and her best friend.
This is Mr. Green's third novel. His first "The Caveman's Valentine," published in 1994, won an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. "The Juror" was an instant NY Times bestseller and was made into a movie starring Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin. After using New York City as the setting for his first two books, the author returns to his Southern roots with this new work. I highly recommend this edge-of-the-seat thriller!