Reviewed by Craig Sisterson
A decade of torture: beatings, stabbings, and all manner of assaults. Audie Palmer has endured the threat of death on a daily basis, from inmates, guards, and prison gangs – all wanting to know what he did with the missing $7 million. A day before his long sentence for the deadly armed robbery expires, Audie escapes. Why? Because after a decade of protecting his own life, he needs to save another’s.
A decade of crime writing: awards, acclaim, and international bestseller lists. Michael Robotham has honed his storytelling skills over the course of nine novels, psychological and geopolitical thrillers, following on from a career as a London-based journalist and celebrity ‘autobiography’ ghostwriter.
Now the man from the North Sydney beaches has turned from his usual heroes, Parkinson’s-afflicted psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and tough investigator Vincent Ruiz, and his usual setting, the United Kingdom. Instead, a standalone story about a stoic and courageous convict on the run in Texas, a tale that may very well be Robotham’s masterpiece.
With its examination of prison life, and murky mix of eclectic characters, crooked and kind, there is something Shawshank-esque about Life or Death. However, Robotham elevates his novel far beyond derivative thanks to his tight and twisting plotting, exquisite settings, and most importantly the emotional oomph of Audie’s tale.
Life of Death is like fine bourbon: smooth, layered, and lingering long after the final sip.
This review was first published in the August 2014 issue of LSJ, the magazine for the NSW legal profession.