Patrick Lee’s Runner has already been optioned for film with Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) set to direct. His writing seems destined for the screen, with its quick descriptions and fast-paced action, centering around a retired Special Forces operative named Sam Dryden and a young girl named Rachel who seems to have special intuitive powers. Fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher or David Baldacci’s John Puller will want to see more of Dryden, and the deeper philosophical impact of Rachel’s “gifts” will draw in fans of Justin Cronin and Stephen King. Well-written and entraining, Runner was hard to put down and tense until the very end.
In a late night/early morning collision on a quiet seaside boardwalk, Dryden’s hermit-like existence is interrupted when he runs into Rachel. Pursued by her former captors, Rachel needs Dryden’s help, and it’s his drop-everything-and-fight attitude that saves her life. Mixing in the point of view of those who pursue them, Lee doles out bite-sized pieces of the mystery. What is Rachel’s power? Why was she held captive? Who can the two fugitives trust? Can Dryden keep them safe long enough for the memory-erasing drugs to wear off of Rachel?
Having read all of the Reacher novels, I found myself initially comparing Lee most strongly there, but the gradual unraveling of the mysterious studies involving Rachel led me to… Firestarter. This isn’t a mystical book, or any kind of supernatural story, but there’s a level of otherworldliness that ties into what happens. We’re sure Dryden has no dog in this fight, but who can Rachel trust outside of that? Who are the good guys? And how can you harness a power that seems ridiculously overpowering (and scientifically more developed than anything we know about now?)
This was my first venture into the worlds of Patrick Lee (he’s written another trilogy prior) but the way he kept the action moving, and the mystery sustained, has me hooked. I always wonder how I’d react if someone in desperate need wound up in my care; would I have the presence of mind and heart to play “Good Samaritan” and risk it all, whether socially, economically, or physically? Dryden is that kind of hero and Runner is an explosive tale that challenges what we think we know.