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The Survivor    by Gregg Hurwitz order for
by Gregg Hurwitz
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I had to keep reminding myself to breathe as I read Gregg Hurwitz's The Survivor in one session from cover to cover - but that's not unusual for any book by one of my all time favorite thriller writers.

He introduces his hero, Nate Overbay, as a courageous UCLA student and ROTC cadet who wins the love of his life, Janie, in a single heroic act, saving her from a riptide. Nate's best friend is Charles Brightbill, 'pathologically relaxed and full of childlike wonderment.' Life is good as Nate and Janie marry and have a beloved daughter, Cielle. But then Nate and Charles go to war. After disaster strikes, Nate returns ghost-ridden and with post traumatic stress disorder that destroys his marriage - he separates from wife and daughter and five years pass.

Nate's life continues to go downhill when he's diagnosed with ALS, a secret that he keeps from Janie. Unwilling to have friends and family watch him deteriorate, he ends up on a ledge outside an eleventh-floor L.A. bank, focused on suicide. But then, he's horrified to see bank robbers shooting a guard and customers inside. Nate becomes a hero, putting his own plans on hold. Only one of the robbers escapes, after warning Nate that 'You have no idea what you have done ... He will make you pay in ways you can't imagine.'

Though Nate believed he had nothing left to lose, he learns differently after he's kidnapped by goons of Ukrainian mobster Pavlo. Unless Nate retrieves the information Pavlo's men sought from a bank vault in the next five days, the latter will torture and kill his ex-wife Janie and fifteen-year-old daughter Cielle. So he executes his own bank robbery, while continuing his work as a Professional Crisis Responder for LAPD. When he finds out what Pavlo is really after, he's still ready to assist the mobster, but Cielle finds an effective way to stop him.

Soon the entire family is on the run (along with Cielle's boyfriend, whom her dad dubs 'Shithead Jason') with the Ukrainian mafia, police and the FBI on their trail. And Nate's ALS symptoms are escalating fast. A good resolution seems impossible. But Nate finds the hero inside him once more. He tells his ghost, 'From here I walk alone' and takes the battle to the enemy. The Survivor is just as engrossing as Gregg Hurwitz's previous novels, but more poignant. Highly recommended!

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