Thursday, January 15, 2009

Book Review: SAFER by Sean Doolittle

Everyone wants to live in a town where everyone knows each other, where everyone keeps an eye out for their neighbor, a place where you always belong. But what if this idyllic community slowly turned into a Brave New Neighborhood? What everyone knew you more than you would like, your neighbors kept to close an eye on you, and when they didn't like what they saw, decided that you were no longer welcome?

Sean Doolittle takes a handful of modern paranoid fears and combines them into a tight, engaging, and suspenseful tale of abusive power and overly cautious neighbors.

When Paul Callaway follows his wife and her new job of assistant dean to a cozy little midwestern town, he already feels a little out of place. He tries his best to fit in with his new neighbors, but quickly finds himself clashing with the local community's version of John Walsh; the father of an abducted and murdered child who now spearheads civic response teams and neighborhood watches.

Paul's marriage begins to fray at the edges, and his disagreement with his manipulative neighbor turns into a full blown feud. Then he discovers that there's much more going on behind the scenes than anyone imagined, and before he knows what's happening, he's being arrested on charges of sexual misconduct with his neighbor's teenage daughter.

What follows is a journey into the substantive fears of the modern man. Exactly how much of our lives is under surveillance? How many freedoms do we willingly and unknowingly sacrifice in the the name of security? How do you prove your innocence when a minor falsely accuses you of sexual improprieties? Can one man really prevail against the system when the system has it out for him?

Everyone just wants to feel safe. But as Paul Callaway soon discovers, sometimes the Safer you feel, the more at risk you truly are.

Like any good suspense novel, the key is believability. Doolittle keeps everything within the realm of reason, and has no trouble convincing the reader to play along. The personalities are distinct but never overblown, the events that take place are always feasible, and the motivations of the characters are never questionable.

As with the best suspense novels, it is scary because you believe it could happen to you.

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