Customer Reviews: Security: A Novel
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on April 15, 2009
I had very high expectations of the author of the well-received, "Human Capital" and I wasn't disappointed. Au contraire. This novel covers many themes well: politics, adultery, class snobbery, law enforcement, parenting, real estate, addictions and deep emotional conflicts in a small but developing suburban college town. To our benefit, the characters are well-drawn and true-to-life--they all have interesting stories to tell us-with a good dose of mystery and suspense.
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Stephen Amidon's new novel, Security, explores many aspects of personal insecurity and the ways in which each of us remains fundamentally insecure, no matter how strong we've made our defenses. Protagonist Edward Inman owns a security company and leads a comfortable life in Massachusetts with his wife, Meg, an alderman running for mayor. Their relationship has become loveless, and after Ed reconnects with his old flame, Kathryn, recently divorced, he becomes involved in her life and issues, crumbling the already weak foundations of his own. A broader cast of characters, most of whom are unlikeable for one reason or another, exhibit behaviors that disclose the range of ways in which we try to overcome the insecurity that we want to hide from others. Amidon's writing is superb, and this satire of modern life and relationships can be read with detachment or with an identification with one or more of the behaviors these characters as we try to find happiness or acceptance with others. Security is a timely novel by a talented writer.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
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on October 5, 2015
The novel is set in a small college town, Stoneleigh, in the Massachusetts mountains. The plot involves lots of town secrets--cheating spouses, alcoholic abuses, a professor-student liaison, a wealthy town benefactor hiding his sexual perversions, an overly ambitious mayor, and poor parenting. In other words, a typical American town. The secrets and their eventual disclosures provide interesting reading. I was not pleased, however, with the ending, which failed to tie loose ends and left the reader wondering, why?
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Secrets and lies are at the heart of Amidon's effective novel, the drama of public accusation and private revenge in the sleepy college town of Stoneleigh, Massachusetts, when Mary Steckl accuses a wealthy local man of attacking her one night at his luxurious estate. Unfortunately for Mary, her father, Walt, is an object of derision since an electrical accident cause irreversible damage to his body. Since the death of his wife from cancer a few years earlier, Walt's drinking has kept him in the public scrutiny. A student at Mt. Stoneleigh College, Mary is a quiet girl, but her accusations bring out a pettiness in her fellow students that burns like a forest fire. Soon everyone takes a side, Mary's credulity hampered by her father's very public blunders.

The story is told primarily through the perspective of Edward Inman, owner of Stoneleigh Security, a private security business that has prospered from the increased paranoia of average citizens. It is Edward who first realizes something is amiss at the home of Doyle Cutler, when he responds to a so-called false alarm and later picks up a stumbling, inebriated Connor Williams walking away from Doyle's estate. Connor is the son of Inman's former lover, Kathryn, a woman Edward has been unable to purge from his life and heart in spite of his best intentions. Then there is the charismatic professor, Stuart Symes, who is having an affair with one of his bright students and is teaching a class Mary attends in creative writing. Stuart is somehow connected to the current scandal, a situation that imperils his reputation and case for tenure and outrages his students.

Amidon skillfully blends these disparate characters in a believable plot of small town life where controversy breeds passionate responses and gossip spreads without regard to accuracy. Something is terribly wrong in Stoneleigh, important men's reputations on the line, Mary caught in the middle, her innocence forfeit as the stories swirl unabated and Doyle protects himself from scandal. From Edward's loveless marriage to Mary's motherless home, the author captures the uneasy tensions of daily dramas and the controversy that brings scandal to the surface in a small town. Lives are irrevocably changed, hysteria rampant, the truth as elusive as a man without an opinion. Luan Gaines/2010.
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on February 19, 2009
In Stoneleigh, Massachusetts Edward Inman runs a security company while married to Alderman Meg. He and Meg know their relationship is loveless, but she will never let him go as long as she runs for public office; which she is as she tries to become town mayor. In fact, Edward loves his former girlfriend Kathryn recently divorced; they are having a heated affair.

Meanwhile college student Mary Steckl accuses wealthy Doyle Cutler of sexual abuse. The police and most townsfolk assume she is full of BS and is probably protecting her widower alcoholic father Walter from some drunken rage of his in which he injured her shoulder. Walt thinks immediately rape through his alcoholic haze. However, one person witnessed what happened to Mary at the Cutler mansion, but Kathryn's brooding nineteen year old son Conor has his own issues and so far is silent except with Doyle.

This is an interesting small-town saga with an ensemble cast including other prime participants not mentioned above like Angela the student who is also at Cutler mansion. The two major subplots of what happened to Mary and the affair between Edward and Kathryn never merge; in fact the latter just sort of vanishes without closure while the former ends violently but somehow without closure too. Fans of morality plays that border on soap opera (as everyone in Stoneleigh seems overwhelmingly loaded with angst) will appreciate this gloomy glimpse at the power of money to make people dance the affluent piper's tune.

Harriet Klausner
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VINE VOICEon May 23, 2009
In some ways, Stephen Amidon's "Security" feels like an east coast version of "Bright Shiny Morning" by James Frey. Amidon's characters have much of the same sense of paranoia as Frey's and seem to share their desire to rush headlong towards an inevitable self-destruction in a world gone stir crazy -- albeit in a rather more gentile and insular manner more appropriate to life in a small Massachusetts' college town, compared to Frey's Los Angeles. Amidon's text is more suitably measured than Frey's also, presenting an altogether more restrained (although at times equally potent) vitriolic against modern-day (so-called) humanity.

Both books offer snapshots into an on-going web of human lives, each presenting vignettes, almost, of particular key moments in their featured characters' existences which more or less just happen to coincide in time and place. The four central lives in "Security" interconnect and interact with each other much more than occurs with those featured in "Bright Shiny Morning", which concentrates much more on the pointlessness and isolation of Los Angeles existences. Amidon gives us a more integrated cross section through the community that he portrays than Frey but even so, his story never really feels to come together into any coherent whole. Rather, one spends much of the book waiting to find out what it is really about, wondering whether anything is ever going to happen, and if so, how it is all going to fit together. The end arrives suddenly and doesn't leave much of a sense of providing any answers to the reader's questions.

Some parts of the book are cleverly written but others struck me as a tad sloppy, with some almost colloquial turns of phrase which I feel could have benefited from a stricter editorial intervention. Overall, the book is a short and reasonably rewarding read but I couldn't quite shake off the feeling that I had been let down a little by the time I reached the end.
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on June 27, 2009
I enjoyed this book. It is a well paced, well written page turner. The story is on slow burn throughout, but the interweaving and unfolding of relationships was fun to follow, and the story is more about the people involved than the events. Indeed it's a funny book in that the hinted at event hangs over the book without ever being properly defined. The title is ironic- everyone in the book wants security but none can find it, and there isn't any at the end.

I loved the book's ability to conjure up small town life, with its superficial politeness and some deeper fault lines. The slow pace of the narrative was like a Mahler allegro- intense, a bit slow, but building to something magnificent.

Sadly as with many novels, the build up is great, but the ending lets it down. It happens too quickly, and we never find out about what happens to the bad guy, or why he did what he did.

The book would easily adapt to become a very good film, and might even be better on screen.

Overall I rate this novel a good read.
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on July 17, 2010
I knew Amidon's name through his criticism, which is no bad place to start. His wise, perceptive reviews for Cormac McCarthy should front every copy of his books. Once I learned that Amidon himself wrote fiction, I snapped up this, his latest novel, without delay.

The premise was promising and simple. Take a small place in American, without any real problems, introduce an element of perceived danger, sit back and watch the fun. So what if Arthur Miller and Stephen Dobyns have already done it?

Then it hit me. I was thirty pages in, and still waiting for something to leap off the page, to engage me. It never did. Nothing had gotten over; I didn't care for the characters, and found the writing uninvolving. If the only real criteria for a book's worth is the pleasure it gives the reader, the burning desire to go on re-reading it, then this book is a failure. Hope the next one's better.
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