Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Girl from Home: A Thriller

by Adam Mitzner
Gallery Books    2016
324 pages     Thriller

Well, it's official. I have read more books by Adam Mitzner than any other author since I started blogging. A Conflict of Interest, A Case of Redemption, and Losing Faith all preceded The Girl from Home, which I finished reading yesterday. All four are good reads, but I believe that I enjoyed A Case of Redemption the most. In all his novels, Mitzner uses his understanding of criminal law in intriguing ways, mixing it with suspense to both ground the plot and show how the legal system works.

Jonathan Caine is a hedge fund manager, whose motto is "I want what I want," and frankly such a motto leads to an unlikeable character, which Jonathan remains throughout most of the book. Mitzner gives us an inside look into how a man like Jonathan lives, with a trophy wife, a penthouse condo, expensive meals, summer rentals, and a Bentley, which he reminds us frequently, is a lease. This is a lifestyle that few of Mitzner's readers have much experience with, although we get glimmers of it in the Trump political campaign. 

Jonathan makes some missteps with the funds he is managing, and he is fired by his company. His assets are frozen, his wife files for divorce, and his widowed father in New Jersey is dying. All in the span of a week or two—all in the first quarter of the book. Jonathan goes to his home town to care for his father, and decides to stay in his family home, since he has no job, no wife, and no money. 

At a high school reunion, he runs into Jackie, his high school crush, who is still as beautiful as she was as a teenager. Jackie, however, has a back story with as much baggage as Jonathan—an abusive husband and two teenagers. Both are vulnerable, and they quickly hook up for what Jonathan thinks will be a fling while he is in town. When Jackie's husband finds out about the affair, however, the narrative takes a dangerous turn. In her own way, Jackie is as self-indulgent as Jonathan. Can these two ever engage in a meaningful relationship?

I didn't like either Jonathan or Jackie very much through most of the book. I warmed to Jonathan during an intimate scene with his father when, shortly before his death, Jonathan's dad woke to have a father-son conversation that was very heart rending and affirming at the same time. Jackie's warmth remains elusive, and I never did find a way to identify with her. It could be that I am more forgiving of flawed male characters than I am of flawed female characters.

Mitzner shines when he is talking legal process, and the two lawyers who help Jonathan and Jackie are great guys who offer sound advice to both of the accused.  Although the cover calls this a thriller, the only thrill I got was when I realized how Jonathan and Jackie got away with murder. Mostly, it is a psychological study of an ill-fated romance.

The biggest thrill in this book is the author. It is hard to believe that a lawyer with a full time job and a family still has the time to turn out a book a year! The value of The Girl from Home for me is the author's discussion of the accumulation of wealth and the hollowness of the philosophy of "I want what I want." One revealing conversation between Jonathan and his wife Natasha early in the book gave me pause. 

"After a moment, in which she looks as if she's measuring her words, Natasha says, "Jonathan, someday you'll see that you can't always get exactly what you want" He raises his head and looks at her as if she's just uttered the worst form of blasphemy he can imagine. "Of course, I can, Natasha. I have for my entire life, and I have no intention of stopping now."

The Girl from Home was released yesterday. It's available for your spring break!

Adam Mitzner's home page.

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