This book was a gift I got from the CBR Book Exchange a couple years ago (thanks again, Jenny S!), and I just never got around to reading it because crime thrillers with hyper-masculine main characters and lots of shoot-’em up violence aren’t really my thing. I’m glad I gave it a shot, because although this book fits comfortably in that genre, I found the lead character Peter Ash, a veteran of the US Marine Corps, to be sensitively portrayed, and the plot itself had something to say that was important beyond “violent intrigue and cool action scenes.” Also, there is a dog.
Peter Ash has been out of the service for a little over a year, and he’s spent most of that year living a mobile life out of his truck up in the mountains. Peter has PTSD and severe claustrophobia, which he calls “the static,” which effectively means he can’t be indoors for very long at a time, especially in spaces without large windows, or ones that remind him of his time in combat. He thought time away from civilization would help his brain get things back to normal, but when he comes to Milwaukee to help the widow of his best friend, Jimmy, the static is still there.
Jimmy has killed himself after getting out of the service. His widow Dinah and his two sons are on their own, and Peter wants to help, so he finds himself doing home repairs for the family, which is how he’s roped into replacing their rotted out porch, under which an enormous, angry dog is living. Once he clears out the big ugly dog, he also finds an old Samsonite suitcase stuffed full of cash and C4 explosives. Later, he learns the money amounts to $400k. Who hid the money under the porch and why? If it was Jimmy, what was he into, and is his family safe. Peter gets himself involved, things go badly, and yes there is violence and betrayals and conspiracies.
What I liked about this book was the way it showed what it’s like for a lot of veterans coming home. The mental health struggles (PTSD is very common and has a multitude of other conditions that come with it often), the lack of resources, the lack of care, the isolation veterans feel having been trained to live in war and now having to live without it. And Petrie portrays all of this very organically and with skill, never expositing awkwardly. His characters seem like real people and they are the focus.
If you like this genre, I would definitely recommend this book. I think I will even be reading the sequels. I really hope the dog sticks around.