The Broken Room
There is a great deal of excitement and mystery when I am handled a novel by an author with whom I have no history. Will I enjoy it, or will the style not meet all the expectations I develop when reading the dust jacket blurb? Such was the case when someone asked me to read this early copy of Peter Clines’ novel, which sounded right up my alley.
Hector is minding his own business, when a young girl enters the bar he frequents and says that she was sent to find him. Baffled by this, Hector begins speaking with Natalie, only to realize that things are much more complicated than they appear at first. Now, Hector and Natalie are on the run from those who have been keeping the pre-teen girl and it does not seem as though they are much pleased with current circumstances. As Hector learns more, he discovers that Natalie could hold the key to something special, though he is not sure it’s being used effectively and wants to protect her from further harm. Clines does well to hook the reader at the outset in this sci-fi type thriller that mixes in just enough grit to be suspenseful.
Hector went by many names during his time working for the US Government. He could make a difference at the drop of a hat, though he was betrayed and this left a sour taste in his mouth. Now, to compensate, he medicates himself through the bottle, turning in one sour feeling for another and his no plans to stop.
When a young Natalie enters the bar he calls home base, Hector is leery. He wonders if this is some sort of set-up and can only hope that the prankster has no plans to do him in. However, as Natalie shares more, Hector realizes that this is something even more troubling. Natalie has escaped from a facility, after being used for some odd scientific experiments. It reminds him of things he oversaw in the past and none of these were pleasant. Now, there are men out to get Natalie, which means Hector is a target as well.
As Hector and Natalie flee for safety, the young girl tells more of her story about experimentation and being subjected to ‘the broken room’, a place where radioactivity helps push test subjects to new heights. Hector soon discovers that Natalie has some powers that could prove deadly in the wrong hands and hopes to stay one step ahead of those who would recapture her and subject the pre-teen to more testing. However, it is not as easy as hiding out, as the others have guns and are determined to get their test subject back. Hector will have to use all his training and gumption to protect this girl he barely knows. Clines spins quite a tale here and leaves readers wondering throughout.
As I mentioned above, new authors tend to be a gamble for me, though Peter Clines makes a good case to add him to my list of those I follow. He develops a strong story and uses flashback sequences to tell of a past that is anything but pleasant, without overdoing things. While the plot is somewhat reminiscent of many novels I have read, the ideas are new and intriguing, with characters who bring life to the story throughout. Clines knows how to tell a story and uses that ability to get the reader eager to learn more with every page turn.
The dual protagonist roles surely go to Hector and Natalie throughout this piece. Both have their own stories to share, mired with angst and trouble, though this does not subsume the narrative. The connection between them is obvious from the get-go and any attentive reader will see that they bond as the story advances. While Hector has a lot to prove, he is also keenly aware that he is Natalie’s only hope for protection and must do what he can, which adds a parental level to this already busy story.
Peter Clines sets the scene for an intriguing piece and left me wanting more. Not that he lacked in development, but I remained curious about Natalie and Hector when I finished reading this piece, almost wondering if Clines had something else in the works to shed more light on their lives. His ability to create a strong narrative without skipping a beat of the action is present throughout, leaving the reader to delve deeper to learn even more. While the story is primarily about these two, there are some other characters that flavor the narrative effectively. Plots advance in a well-paced manner, even if some of the ideas are well-used within the genre. The reader is keenly aware of how things will likely progress, but cannot be entirely certain, which makes them all the more exciting. I would read more by Peter Clines, given the chance, if only to see what other ideas he has ruminating in mis mind and wishes to put to paper.
Kudos, Mr. Clines, for a great piece of fiction. I will see if I can get my hands on more of your work to see what I think whenever the chance arises.