” Charlie felt Byko’s eyes on him and realized what a fool he’d been. Leaving Oliver and Meagan in Los Angeles, flying out here pretending he was James Bond, ready to save his damsel in distress when in fact she was no longer his damsel to save. ” (Ch.28, p.155)
Out of Range is a fast-paced international thriller with familiar elements like espionage, terrorism and politics. Six years ago in Uzbekistan, journalist Charlie Davis met his wife while posted there. After nearly being killed during government crack-down of a demonstration, Charlie traded adventurous life for suburban comfort in Los Angeles, covering local politics for LA Times. He would not subject Julie or the children to any kind of danger just to serve his overdeveloped sense of heroism—to make a difference in the world far beyond his reach.
She spoke of missing the times in Uzbekistan when she felt she was doing something important and complained, however gently, about the humdrum of life of car pools and t-ball practice and laundry. At times, she protested a little too stridently about how they’d made the right decision to settle in Los Angeles . . . (Ch.15, p.91)
But Uzbekistan is not done with them. On a car trip home from Disneyland with her two children, Julie vanishes. As Charlie soon discovers, her disappearance is not random kidnapping, and he becomes the prime suspect. Rescuing her and proving his innocence will take him back to Uzbekistan and secrets. So ensues is a high-speed global trot that involves an ex-CIA operative now working for a terrorist, an insidious plot that threatens financial infrastructure around the Western world, a cargo container chase, a macabre bloodbath in a former Soviet missile complex, and a cunning, deep-cover operation of the MI6.
It was the dramatic inevitability that told the story. Today, this square, the anniversary, Byko on that statue. The money and the greed. That was what Byko meant to punish. (Ch.62, p.323)
Steinberg is the producer of the TV show Without A Trace, so it’s inevitable that he brings the television sensibility to his writing by maintaining a quick pace and suspenseful plotting. He gives us an ample history of Charlie and Julie, of how Julie has grown restless over blasé marriage and, most of all, of how she has harbored secrets that finally come back to terrorize them all. So there is a personal and marital drama unfolding as the action escalates. Although some of the stunts Charlie does seem over-reaching for someone who is not a trained spy or soldier (he’s no James Bond, but nor is Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series), the storyline is within realm of plausibility. Out of Range is a solid debut.
*I received this ARC from the publisher for an honest review. 352 pp. William Morrow. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]