Review

One False Move

by Alex Kava

One
does not immediately think of the flatlands as a hotbed of crime.
Yet there must be something about the region that flips a switch,
that causes madness to boil over. Bonnie and Clyde, Charles
Starkweather…it doesn't happen often, but when it does, it
occurs on a large and terrible scale. Two such eruptions inspired
and propelled ONE FALSE MOVE, Alex Kava's latest novel.

Kava has achieved critical and popular acclaim with her Maggie
O'Dell stories, so a stand-alone novel such as ONE FALSE MOVE would
seem to be a bit of a risk at this point. Any question about
whether ONE FALSE MOVE might impede Kava's momentum, however, is
resolved within the first few pages of this breathtaking
work.

ONE FALSE MOVE begins with convicted murderer Jared Barnett being
freed from prison as the result of a successful appeal by his
attorney, Max Kramer. Barnett, flush with an adrenalin rush from
his undeserved freedom, immediately begins picking his life up from
where he left off, drawing his sister, Melanie Starks, and her son,
Charlie, into the evil vortex of his life. Melanie is a roiling
mass of contradictions. She appears on the surface to be a victim,
buffeted this way and that by Barnett's influence --- yet she has a
quietly amoral lifestyle that is, in its way, almost as unsettling
as Barnett's, even if her wrongdoings don't achieve the magnitude
of his. Or maybe they do, given that she has drawn Charlie into it,
teaching him the ways of theft and graft without hesitation or
regret.

Charlie, already propelled down a dark path by his mother, easily
falls under Barnett's sway, to the degree that when Barnett plans a
bank robbery with Charlie's assistance, Melanie is the last to
know. She grudgingly goes along with the plan, and accordingly
finds herself on the run with her brother and son when things go
horribly wrong. There is no turning back for any of them,
particularly Melanie, who finds herself horrified as the violence
around her escalates with each passing hour, drawing herself and
her son deeper and deeper into the quagmire into which her brother
is leading them.

ONE FALSE MOVE is a chilling work from beginning to end. Kava's
portrayal of Charlie Starks is unsettling; the similarity of his
name to the notorious, real-life Starkweather and their identical
interests contrast with Starks's unwitting innocence and childlike
demeanor. Melanie's dull-witted acceptance of her situation is all
too familiar; she yearns for a better life, but lacks the desire to
make the effort to change. The mix of personalities and situations
leaves the reader wondering from page to page what will happen
next. Indeed, Kava saves one of the most unsettling moments of ONE
FALSE MOVE for the final page.

While Kava will undoubtedly continue to achieve well-deserved
success with her O'Dell novels, ONE FALSE MOVE is a fascinating
tale, darkly drawn and brilliantly told.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 13, 2011

One False Move
by Alex Kava

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mira
  • ISBN-10: 0778321894
  • ISBN-13: 9780778321897