by Mark Allen Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Note to readers: This review was written as part of my Amazon Vine Voice program
Mark Allen Smith’s debut thriller, The Truth Hurts... (aka, The Inquisitor, from Henry Holt and Company 2012) introduces Geiger, one of the most unique characters in fiction since the arrival of Robert Crais’ Joe Pike and T. Jefferson Parker’s Joe Trona. Geiger, like Pike and Trona, is a non-verbal protagonist whose to-the-point actions speak loudly about what’s going on inside his head. He has no last name and no childhood, and arrives in New York with no memories, no emotions and almost no ability to feel pain. He falls into a job working for a mob boss and finds he has a knack for convincing people to tell their secrets, using his own method of carefully administered psychological and physical torture. His life bumps along nicely until he is asked to work on a twelve-year-old boy–and everything falls apart, including the subconscious walls that have protected Geiger from the truth of his past. As he his fleeing for his life, insistent upon protecting this child he barely knows, pieces of his past filter forward until the whole truth crashes down on him like a dump truck full of wet cement.
It quickly becomes apparent to the reader that the plot has less to do with Geiger’s torture techniques (what he calls ‘information retrieval’) and more to do with the man’s search for his own truth–his past. As a result, I found myself liking this muscle-bound, amoral guy as I might like a over-sized bumbling puppy who doesn’t know the rules of the household yet, but wants to learn. Smith provides just enough childhood details at all the right moments that I feel sorry for the youthful Geiger and as a result don’t hate the adult nearly as much as I should considering his profession.
It doesn’t hurt that Smith is a true artist with words. Check out some of these great lines:
- Now Harry [Geiger’s sidekick] was forty-four, and his body, once a brother-in arms against the world, could no longer be trusted. He knew from all the lives he’d sifted through that within every man is his own Caesar and Brutus
- Harry envied Geiger. [but] He wouldn’t change places for any price–clearly, the man had more demons than a Hieronymus Bosch painting
- Geiger stopped his nighttime run just long enough to lay out the punks in a blur of lethal hands and feet, and then go on his way before Harry could summon breath to speak
- [Geiger explains to Harry why he jumped in to defend him against the ‘punks’]: It had nothing to do with you. If they’d been kicking a dog I would’ve done the same thing.
- You know that sensation…when you feel like you’ve hit bottom and you realize you’re right where you belong?
What thriller aficionado could not love this man’s wordsmithing skills? In fact, the more I read of Mark Allen Smith’s story, the more I realized this was a man with that rare ability to spin a fully fleshed emotion with just a few words, that the reader can fully relate to. Try this one–They were joined at the hip [referring to Harry and Geiger], light-years between them. Smith writes some of the best descriptive passages I’ve ever read
The story is like an out-of-control freight train barreling toward a crowded terminal. The action never stops, with just a few inconsistencies at the end, but they are forgiven, lost in the richness of the climax and final surprises. If you like mysteries, thrillers, crime drama, you don’t want to miss this one.
Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.