Life or Death

Michael Robotham takes a break from his series character Joseph O'Loughlin for the standalone Life or Death, about a man named Audie Palmer who escapes from prison one day before he's scheduled to be released. Why would he turn himself into a fugitive when he could've been a free man the following day?

Perhaps the answer lies in his past. In 2004, robbers hijacked an armored truck. Sheriff's deputies chased and killed two perpetrators when the truck crashed. Audie survived a shot to the head at the scene, pled guilty to being the driver and received a 10-year sentence. The $7-million haul, however, was never recovered.

After he breaks out of prison, Audie is spotted outside the house of the former deputy--now sheriff--who shot him. This sets off a manhunt by local and federal law enforcement officers, including Sheriff Valdez and FBI Special Agent Desiree Furness. When more deaths occur, all blamed on Audie, Furness begins to question "official" versions of events, going back to the armored truck hijacking.

Audie is a captivating character, enigmatically enduring hell in prison with a Zen-like attitude. What keeps him going is an old promise he made, and readers will be eager to discover what that promise is. Well-developed supporting characters are painted in shades of gray, their motivations not all bad or good but plausible. Robotham, an Australian, convincingly evokes the feel and rhythms of Texas and its people, while telling a story that's as beautiful as a wide-open sky and as full of heartache as a country love song. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

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