One False Move Hardcover – Aug 1 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Nebraskan suspense author Kava takes a break from her successful series featuring FBI Special Agent Maggie O'Dell (At the Stroke of Madness; Split Second) with this psychological thriller about the fallout from an abortive bank robbery. The principal players are Jared Barnett, just released by his shady attorney's machinations from a life sentence for murder; his docile sister, Melanie Starks; and her 17-year-old son, Charlie, to whom Jared is a father figure. Just as their lives seem to be approaching normalcy, Jared scopes out a bank heist and bullies his sister and nephew into helping him. Mel is designated driver in the high-risk chase that begins right after Jared and Charlie, empty-handed, flee the bank. In a remote state park cabin, Andrew Kane, a writer, happens to be alone when they appear and Mel, shocked, learns from his TV that four people were killed in the holdup. Then she remembers the childhood that she and Jared were cheated out of—a mother who washed down pills with vodka while their father mercilessly beat the children until Jared took matters into his own hands. Victims accumulate as fast as the escape route changes, while abbreviated chapters and truncated dialogue signal the approaching explosive climax. This is a one-night read with some unexplained loose ends that won't bother readers hooked on hair-raising car chases and gruesome murder scenes.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Kava uses a strong supporting cast to provide Scarpetta-like authenticity and the pyschological insights of Alex Delaware...Add to that a clever surprise ending, and this one is sure to be spotted all over the beach by summer’s end.” —Publishers Weekly on The Soul Catcher
“Alex Kava’s thriller is a roller-coaster ride. Although your heart is in your throat the entire time, you enjoy every scary minute.” —Woman’s Own on A Perfect Evil
“A well-crafted page turner...”—Publishers Weekly on A Perfect Evil
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Jared Barnett, freed from Death Row by a crooked lawyer and a coerced testimony, teams with his sister, a small-time con woman, and her son, a professional shoplifter. They arrange to rob a bank to pay off Jared's debts, but when shots are fired and four people are left for dead, they sprint for the country. Crime novelist Andrew Kane has isolated himself at Platte River State Park, trying to kick-start his newest novel, but his isolation turns on him when the three killers stumble on his nest and take him hostage.
Platte River State Park is real, as is the Nebraska Bank of Commerce branch the killers mishandle, and the towns of Auburn and Hastings, where key moments of the plot take place. It's disconcerting to think that I may have slept in the cabin where Andrew Kane was taken hostage. The novel clips along at a short pace, with scenes so cinematic that I can almost see the blackouts and the camera pulling focus. By releasing hints of the characters' past in measured amounts and making us wonder where their loyalties lie, Alex Kava keeps the pages turning to the end.
There's nothing really new or revolutionary in this novel. It's probably not a classic of the genre. But it is well-paced, intriguing, peopled with interesting characters, and a cracking good read. Good airport reading or something to keep in your desk for your coffee breaks, this novel is a worthwhile investment for fans of suspense fiction.
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
In ONE FALSE MOVE, Kava leaves O'Dell behind and focuses on a dark story involving a mother and her son, who have been thieves all their lives, and her recently released brother, who had a fancy lawyer get him off death row for murder. We know that Jared Barnett, the killer, did kill the young lady, and now he's out to repay his lawyer's debt. Also involved is a prosecutor named Grace, a cop named Tommy Pakula and a writer named Andrew Kane. While the narrative is well written, ultimately one has to step back and admit that Melanie, Charlie and Jared are not likeable characters, and that's who we spend the most time with.
Once again, abused children are forgiven for their behavior because they suffered so much. And even with the "trick ending," we knew all along who was really responsible for the Barnett's father's murder. Melanie lets her brother control her; let's her brother ruin her 18 year old son's life; and stands by while her brother and her son murder innocent people. And then in the end, mother and son get off pretty easy, in spite of what they've done.
So, here you have a well written novel, but I can't agree with Kava's message here.
I look forward to her return to the O'Dell series.
**** Going in a new direction from her Maggie O'Dell stories, Alex Kava takes readers on a tense and wild ride. Fans of Grisham or Turrow will appreciate this new dimension to her writing. ****
Reviewed by Amanda Killgore for Huntress Reviews.