Cannonball Read IV: Man of Wax by Robert Swartwood
Ben Anderson is happily married with a four year-old daughter. He lives a simple but satisfying life, until he wakes up in a nightmare. Ben wakes up in a motel miles away from home; his glasses replaced with another pair, and new clothes and a cellphone. He receives a call from a man named Simon, who informs Ben that he is not part of a game, and that his wife and daughter's lives are dependent on his cooperation. From here we follow Ben in the game, as he attempts to save his wife and daughter.
The story is told from Ben's first person perspective, and he is quite likeable as a character. I definitely found myself rooting for him in what feels like an impossible situation. I kept wondering, "how the hell is he going to get himself out of this?" Swartwood (who also wrote the quite interesting Serial Killer's Wife) provides Ben with no options for the majority of the book, leaving the reader with a sort of desperate hope and sadness for him. Then some real hope is injected, and the action gets pumped up through the roof. Ben is no longer a pawn in the game, he is a true player.
The game itself, I won't discuss further but it seems Swartwood is setting up a very traditional good vs. evil and powerful vs. powerless narrative. At points I had a hard time wrapping myself around the evil he presents... it seemed TOO evil to me. I have a hard time believing truly evil people can have so much power and influence... perhaps it's the optimism in me, or perhaps it's just too depressing to imagine "the game" ever happening.
Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. Swartwood's writing style is quick and witty, and overall quite strong. Exposition is relevant to the overall story and he does not bog down the story with dialogue. This is apparently the first in a series of three, but so far the other two are not available. I look forward to reading them when they are, however.
For more of Petalfrog's reviews, check out her blog, My 2012 Cannonball Read.
This review is part of Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it.