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One to Go

Review

One to Go

Following his debut horror/thriller DEAD LIGHT, Mike Pace presents perhaps one of the most surprising novels I’ve come across in the past decade. Promoted as a thriller, this tale smacks more of the paranormal genre.

Tom Booker works 15-hour days at a powerful Washington corporate law firm. On Saturday, he sneaks out of the office early to take his young daughter and her friends to a museum, but the managing partner catches him in the elevator. Booker lies his way out of the quagmire, an easy task for an attorney. Still, he’ll catch hell from his ex if he’s not there in 10 minutes. Screeching tires out of the parking garage, Booker encounters the perpetual D.C. traffic snafu and takes an alternate route over Memorial Bridge.

"Although the dénouement is tied up a little too neatly by a Good Cop, this story is one of self-assessment, moral debate, ethics and redemption --- one ideal to be adapted for a blockbuster film."

Stressed from a grueling schedule and fear of his ex’s ire, Booker reaches for the glove compartment: “Just a sip to take the edge off.” As though DUI isn’t bad enough, Booker texts that he’s crossing the bridge. He looks up just as he crashes into the minivan carrying his daughter and her friends. The van teeters over the bridge railing but doesn’t fall. Booker extricates himself from his mangled Lexus GS430, arms lacerated and back aching from the wreck, into a surreal world. Smoke and steam from the smashed cars don’t move. Preppy Chad and Brit jog across the bridge, though, and offer him a bizarre do-over.

Instead of exchanging his soul for worldly pleasures, Booker’s Faustian bargain has a more pressing urgency. Mephistopheles takes the form of the clean-cut joggers, who propose a pact with their boss: Murder a stranger every other Saturday at midnight, or Booker’s seven-year-old daughter Janie, her three young friends and his ex’s sister will die, one by one, their souls booked on a one-way flight to Hades.

It’s a no-brainer --- probably a hallucination caused by booze and stress. His daughter’s life is worth the devil’s deal, and Booker has nothing to lose. Lawyers are trained to void contracts. Or so it seems. Two weeks later, his sister-in-law is bludgeoned to death by Gino, her mild-mannered husband. At midnight. Booker receives a text: “One down, four to go.”

Booker has two weeks to murder someone. Who better than a homicidal brother-in-law? He oils his slippery slope by justifying that Gino’s life is over. Success! None of his daughter’s friends die. A fortnight later, however, he misses his contractual obligation. Janie’s friend falls, breaking her neck. Instead of a text, Booker receives a photo of the dead girl. Two down, three to go.

The abominable attorney takes on pro bono criminal defense cases so that he can locate “lowlifes” to kill, which he justifies will save taxpayers money --- and his daughter’s life. The best laid plans of mice and rats often go awry. Booker bungles murder attempts and even shows remorse while in the act. What, a lawyer with a conscience?

Justice prevails, and Booker accepts a plea bargain from the ultimate judge. Although the dénouement is tied up a little too neatly by a Good Cop, this story is one of self-assessment, moral debate, ethics and redemption --- one ideal to be adapted for a blockbuster film.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on December 5, 2014

One to Go
by Mike Pace

  • Publication Date: December 2, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction, Paranormal, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 160809135X
  • ISBN-13: 9781608091355