Sunday, January 25, 2009

Beat the Reaper

I just raced through reading the darkly comic Beat the Reaper from first time author Josh Bazell. From the book jacket and reviews, I thought I would enjoy this crime adventure story, and its intensity had me finishing it in two days.
From the publisher:
Meet Peter Brown, a young Manhattan emergency room doctor with an unusual past that is just about to catch up with him. His morning begins with the quick disarming of a would-be mugger, followed by a steamy elevator encounter with a sexy young pharmaceutical rep, topped off by a visit with a new patient--and from there Peter's day is going to get a whole lot worse and a whole lot weirder. Because that patient knows Peter from his other life, when he had a different name and a very different job. The only reason he's a doctor now is thanks to the Witness Protection Program--and even they can't protect him from the long reach of the New Jersey mob. Now he's got to do whatever it takes to keep his patient alive so he can buy some time...and beat the reaper.
While doing his best to keep his new patient/former work colleague alive "or else," Dr. Peter Brown reflects on his past life as Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwa, mob hit man. This story moves quickly from medical procedural to wild adventure and back, with Peter using knowledge from his past life to help him on this, one of the most dangerous days of his life. Outrageously exciting, Peter lets us into his past life, moving rapidly from teenage friend of a mob lawyer's son, to a contract killer. Peter is well-rounded, allowing readers to hate the violence of Pietro's actions, but sympathize with how he becomes entangled. Chapters alternate between past and present, and are broken down into short scenes, making this a very rapid read. Many characters are wacky, and to me most are one-sided: crazy, deceptive, short-fused, stupid, angelic. When a different side of the character is shown, he then completely becomes that new personality or stereotype.
I found the use of the "f-bomb" to be excessive throughout the book. Obviously I expect it in dialogue from most of the characters, but it really wasn't needed in the narrative. The sexual situations seemed to be thrown in just to have them, as they were unnecessary to this plot-driven novel.
Something that makes reading Beat the Reaper different from most novels is the use of footnotes, written in Peter's sharply sarcastic voice. I often found myself laughing or going back to re-read lines, making sure I understood the intended meaning. I found the use of the section divider, a silhouette of the grim reaper, to be a nice detail, especially when it changed to the silhouette of a farmer on a tractor, Peter stating that a farmer would be the modern day man with a scythe!
Overall I enjoyed Beat the Reaper and could envision everything as it was described, sneaking into houses, a grossly tumorous knee, shoot-outs, an under-funded city hospital, the long dark walk to the shark tank. . .
Beat the Reaper Official Website - book excerpt, audio, video, and even a game!
An interview with Josh Bazell

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10 comments:

squawmama said...

Elizabeth this sounds like a great book my husband would love... Thanks for the great review... Have a blessed Sunday

(((HUGS)))
Donna

Smilingsal said...

This is the book I refused to read and review. This is the one I actually threw into the trash because of the heavy use of profanity. What goes in, will come out.

However,you wrote an excellent review.

Ma'dame French said...

This sounds like an intereting book thanks for the report;) French

Justine said...

Do you realize how much you're adding to my book list these days?

Justine :o )

Raggedy Girl said...

Thanks for the book review. It is so nice to have some one tell you what a book is really about instead of just taking a chance.
Have a great Sunday,
Roberta Anne

Bridget said...

I'm going to add this to my Amazon Wishlist! It sounds like a really great read. The "F" bomb doesn't scare me off.

Bridget said...

I'd better take a speed reading course to keep up with all of the great book suggestions you've been giving us lately!

Carolyn (Harbor Hon) said...

I agree with Bridget, you're helping our reading list become longer and longer and I love it! Already bought a couple from a second hand store to keep costs down. Got a REAL good price on two of them. Thanks. xxoo

Jade said...

I have been searching for a new book to read,that is out of my norm...Thanks to you,I think I found it... Now I just have to find it!

Jade said...

Oh, and I don't know if you have read or reviewed Blue Like Jazz.But I read that you are a Christian, and you obviously have an open mind. It is a short book, very quick read. Had me laughing and crying all in the same breath, but taught me so many valuble lessons, and opened my eyes to what Christianity is all about. Loved it. I should send it to you, its a few years old. My former preacher let me in on it.He's the "hip, young" Preacher. I had no idea that a small book, could be so powerful, and comedic.