I am, I confess, a sucker for revenge novels, especially for well-written ones. Accordingly, when I discover an extremely well-written novel that deals with settling scores, I find myself ready to press the work into as many hands as I possibly can. The one that I am passing on to you, right now, is THE WAKE-UP by Robert Ferrigno.
Ferrigno has gone from hitting his stride with last year's SCAVENGER HUNT (in the running for the MWA's Best Mystery Novel of 2003, even as I write) to racing at a full gallop with THE WAKE-UP. This is one of those novels in which everything works, at least narratively. Things go badly at times for Frank Thorpe, the flawed but sympathetic hero of the piece, but it just serves to keep things interesting from first page to last and to keep the reader consuming all of those pages in between.
Thorpe is a very smart, very dangerous government operative who makes an error in judgment that costs him dearly --- not only with respect to his job but also in his personal life. The object of his error, and his resultant enmity, is a man known only as The Engineer, who seems to have disappeared after shattering Thorpe's career. Thorpe, still haunted by his judgment lapse, is about to leave southern California for a much needed change of scenery when he witnesses an arrogant, casual act of rudeness and cruelty visited upon a young boy. Thorpe's anger at The Engineer needs some diversion --- at least until he can locate The Engineer himself --- so he makes it his business to avenge the boy.
The author of the rude act is Douglas Meachum, a self-important art dealer who tends to regard everyone as objects living in his world. It doesn't take long for Thorpe to interject himself into Meachum's world and give him a mild shock to the system, or what Thorpe refers to as "the wake-up." In doing so, however, Thorpe soon finds himself involved in a dangerous game with a designer drug manufacturer, his business-minded, social-climbing wife, and their psychotic but strangely endearing enforcers. And The Engineer, interestingly enough, is once again about to intrude into Thorpe's life in a very bad way.
Ferrigno's novels have always possessed a unique edginess tinged with a dark humor, and THE WAKE-UP is no exception. As a result, anything can happen in a Ferrigno book; in THE WAKE-UP anything, and everything, does. This is the book that will move Ferrigno's name to the 'A' List of a multitude of readers.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011