Nothing Short of Dying
A novel by Erik Storey
Book review by Jules Brenner
Scribner, released 8/16/16, 320 pp., $26.00
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I can't recall reading an action thriller with as many furious and sometimes incredibly depicted close combat episodes with one man against a swarm of armed, trained shooters or against a single brute giant in one attention-grabbing novel.

International mercenary and general good guy Clyde Barr is at the apex of alpha males, with a record of helping people in various countries. A few days after being released from a Mexican jail on trumped-up charges, he's making a meal out of a deer he'd just killed out in the Utah wilderness, when his phone rings. It's Jen, his dearest little sister from among three, and she's frantic. "I need you to come get me," she whispers. "He's going to kill me. After I help him, I'm dead," she says.

Unfortunately, eliciting a promise from brother Clyde is more important in her frenzied state than telling him who's got her and where she is. After quickly promising to get her, he hears a male voice shout and the line goes dead before she can give him those vital details.

Jen, the sister Clyde was closest to in their growing-up years is a special person to him, and what he's just heard is enough to put him on the pursuit. Barr must and will perform a rescue. There's nothing short of dying he won't do to save his sister. The rescue determines everything from here and the clock is ticking.

He sets out to ask everyone he knows where she was last seen and with whom, winding up in a bar owned by a crime boss. This becomes a battle with the clientele which, of course, he wins. In so doing, it becomes clear that the pretty, well-conditioned bartender, Allie, talked too much and is now in deep trouble with her boss. Barr won't let anything happen to a woman who answered his questions, and takes her with him to drop her off somewhere safe. Trouble is, this 26-year old toughie has other ideas. Her determination is to partner up with him on his quest, with a willingness to do what it takes to prove she will be more a help than a burden.

By now Barr has learned that Jen's captor is the arrogant drug manufacturer and dealer named Lance Alvis, the biggest meth supplier in the state and is as smart and wily as he is dangerous. What this he needs from Jen that's keeping her alive is still a mystery, as is his very well hidden whereabouts.

Barr turns to his old cellmate Zeke, as bizarre and greedy a psychopathic mountain man as you'll meet. He lead Barr to his slippery and dangerous quary. (so long as there's money in it for him), which puts Barr and Allie on an exhaustive trail, and within reach of the remote factory that Alvis operates in a compound guarded by a small army of strongmen. And, therein, with any luck, is Jen.

Storey brings out all the challenges and dangers with a great deal of detailed knowledge of the mountain landscape and, from a hunter's background in tracking. But the story is far from over.

As said, Storey proves himself capable of holding one's attention with his well-written first novel, and that's commendable. But in the span of his book there's a tedium factor that has a lot to do with the repetetitious number of death-defying episodes of the hero somehow getting out of impossible situations alive. This hero is prone to a fight. He is battered, bloodied (and worse, but for what that "worse" is, you'll have to get the book).

Storey's males are suitably muscular and destructive and he works at giving them background and depth; he surprises with some pretty fine dialogue, well-tuned to the narrative, but isn't above the ordinary in places. His game is violence to the max, and those readers who have an unquenchable taste for extremes of it and are willing to let plot points and details of logic ride, will love this book. Those who go for a little more plausibility without a writer's tricks and omissions, not so much. But, hey, this is a first novel and it's a good read for its audience. I wouldn't downplay this author's future potentials.

If you don't yet own Nothing Short of Dying and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.