May Baxter isn’t what I’d call a role model
for young women. Not only is the sixteen year old married,
she married a mean man with a penchant for violence. It
would seem May didn’t learn much from her bad choice:
She screws around with another man and when her husband,
Wallace, finds out she’s pregnant he’s furious.
The apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree. The
Baxter family, intent on protecting May, fixate on the one
person they believe can help protect her from her vengeful
husband. Enter Gordon Pearce.
Pearce doesn’t want the job of protecting May, but
the Baxter’s are determined to enlist his help, and
desperate people sometimes resort to desperate measures.
Saying anything else about the plot would be a disservice
to readers. Guthrie has crafted a thoroughly engaging tale,
complete with some twists that are so stealthily deployed
they’re pure genius. This is a book where you can’t
predict the outcome, yet you can’t deny the author
full credit for laying the foundation for the story. No
tricks, no shortcuts, just brilliant storytelling.
What captivated me most about Guthrie’s style was
how thoroughly developed each person was in the story. There
is never a sense of a lull in the pacing, that anything
extraneous has been thrown in as filler. I felt I’d
really spent time in the head of each of the characters
involved. Guthrie uses short time frames and a narrow list
of characters, and draws each one so well that you feel
you know them.
And the story is intense. I felt as thought my heart had
been ripped out of my chest and stuffed down my throat.
My one fear, reading the book, was that May would prove
to be nothing more than window dressing. Just a stupid girl,
responsible for all this mayhem but oblivious to her responsibility,
and while I’m aware that there are many teenage girls
who are just that dumb I wanted her to be more than that.
In the end, in some respects I felt she was the smartest
Baxter of the lot, although admittedly that’s not
Parts that will make you writhe in agony and others that
make you laugh out loud, Hard Man is pure heart-stopping
suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat until
the very last page.
(Really, it’s a love story about a man and his dog…)
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Sandra Ruttan's debut novel, Suspicious Circumstances, was released
in January 2007. Her short fiction has appeared in Out of
the Gutter, Demolition, Mouth Full
of Bullets, Crimespree Magazine, The
Cynic and Spinetingler. For more information
visit her website.
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2007 SPINETINGLER Magazine - All rights reserved