The publication of SLAY RIDE, Chris Grabenstein's third novel,
raises an interesting question: is there anything that this author
cannot do well? Grabenstein seemingly burst from out of nowhere
onto the mystery and suspense scene with what has become known as
the John Ceepak/Jersey Shore mysteries: the award-winning
TILT-A-WHIRL and MAD MOUSE. Ostensibly a stand-alone work, SLAY
RIDE in some ways is a more ambitious endeavor for Grabenstein.
Certainly, if his intent was to tell a story that would keep the
reader up all night, he has succeeded admirably.
SLAY RIDE centers on Christopher Miller and Scott Wilkinson, two
very different yet driven men whose lives come to intersect briefly
but meaningfully. Miller is an FBI agent, a specialist in
kidnapping cases and a legend in the agency. Wilkinson is a
wunderkind in the advertising industry who sees the world in terms
of seconds and minutes, causes and effects. Both men value only one
thing above their jobs: their families. Wilkinson's life, though,
is dramatically changed when he complains to his car service about
his driver's erratic behavior. Nicolai Kyznetsoff, the driver in
question, is a dangerous, rabid wolf with the ability to wreak
havoc and revenge at whim. He slowly and methodically begins
researching Wilkinson's life, plotting a dark and final retaliation
with a number of bloody rewards.
Meanwhile, Miller, riding a desk job since incurring the
displeasure of a superior, finds his path intersecting with
Wilkinson and Kyznetsoff as the result of a seemingly innocuous
strong-arm burglary of a Russian immigrant's apartment. Kyznetsoff
is indirectly tied to it, and it has attracted the attention of a
number of people. Kyznetsoff, the hunter, finds that he is the
hunted as well --- by more than one party and for more than one
reason. Nothing, however, will prevent Kyznetsoff from carrying out
his revenge against Wilkinson, even as Miller races against time
and distance to keep Kyznetsoff from destroying not one but two
SLAY RIDE is a thriller best read on the edge of your seat.
Kysnetsoff is an unforgettable villain --- Grabenstein does for
Santa Claus and limo drivers what Stephen King did for clowns ---
whose danger quotient is exceeded only by his animal cunning and
intellect. The plan that Grabenstein constructs for the climax of
the book is nothing short of amazing, all the more so because it's
so workable. The author, however, does not give his characters
short shrift either; Miller is an immensely and immediately likable
protagonist. SLAY RIDE is supposed to be a stand-alone work, but
Miller is too good a character to limit to a single novel.
Hopefully we'll see more of him in the very near future.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011