Audiobook Review: Line of Fire by Stephen White

21 08 2012

Line of Fire by Stephen White (Dr. Alan Gregory Series, Book 19)

Read by Dick Hill

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hors 43 Min

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Line of Fire is a slower, more contemplative novel in the Alan Gregory Series. Instead of Alan solving a crime, he is attempting to solve and salvage his life and the lives of those he loves. While many may find this frustrating, I found it brilliant and heartbreaking and it left me yearning for the series finale.

Grade: B+

Line of Fire by Stephen White is the penultimate volume in his series featuring Boulder Colorado psychologist Dr. Alan Gregory. The fact that the series will be ending with its 20th edition both saddens and excites me. I will hate to see this series go. Dr. Alan Gregory isn’t your typical thriller hero. He doesn’t secretly posses ninja skills and he never served as an Army Ranger. In fact, he’s pretty much a boring, mediocre guy that you wouldn’t give a second thought to if you saw him walking down the street. I will be very sad to see this character leave my literary world, but I am also kind of happy that White decided to end this series on his own terms. There are so many series out there that seem to push out their yearly edition to the titular characters series without much progression to the overall development of the plot or character. Yet, one thing White has managed to do is progress the series. The Alan Gregory today isn’t the same man we met in the first novel, Privileged Information. He is a bit more world weary, a lot more experienced, and most importantly, a lot more developed as a character. It’s interesting what White has done to this character over the series. He is a man who is a bit of a push over. He is married to a strong willed and kind of unlikable woman who, in my opinion, never really seems to appreciate him. Throughout the series, his best friends, two strong, but actually likeable women and a Boulder County Police Officer, all of which sort of push him around as well. Yet, instead of making his into this super assertive character, White has allowed him to develop mechanisms to deal with his faults. More importantly, over the past few editions, White has explored more and more into Alan’s past, showing us exactly why he has become the man he is today. It’s a progression that felt like it was leading somewhere, and it seems that eventual destination begins in The Line of Fire.

Usually in an Alan Gregory novel, some external motivational force, like a murder or kidnapping, that connects in some way to one of the doctor’s cases, leads him into some adventure. Yet, in Line of Fire, the motivation is all internal. While the city of Boulder is dealing with one of it’s largest wildfires to date, a   careless moment between Alan and Sam may just expose their deepest secret, potentially leading to the destruction of everything they hold dear. Also, a mesmerizing new client may hold the secret to one of his dearest friend’s erratic behavior.  Line of Fire is a psychological thriller with a big emphasis on the psychological. Personally, I thought the direction that Stephen White took this novel was inspired brilliance. White pulls together subplots going back as far as book 1, to put Alan and Sam in the most precarious spot of the entire series. Instead of trying to solve a murder or save a client, Alan is trying to keep the pieces of his life, his friendships, family and business, from crashing around him. This book definitely downplays the action and spends a lot of time in Alan’s head, forcing him to take on things he would much rather keep buried. White is simply brutal to his main character in this novel, taking everything he finds solace in, and tearing it from under his feet. While you know a lot of it is due to choices made by the characters in the novel, it is still hard to watch at times. Alan Gregory is one of those characters you want to see succeed, yet, his greatest strength, the fact that he is willing to do anything for those he loves, may just become the instrument for his destruction. My emotions ran the gambit in this novel. I was angry and frustrated at one moment, then utterly heartbroken the next. Now, some readers may be disappointed with this novel and its direction. As the first chapter in the two book arch that will end the series, Line of Fire doesn’t have the kind of clean ending you expect from the series. Much of the book is wrapped up, but there is definitely a feel of unfinished business as the novel comes to a close. Line of Fire is a slower, more contemplative novel in the Alan Gregory Series. Instead of Alan solving a crime, he is attempting to solve and salvage his life and the lives of those he loves. While many may find this frustrating, I found it brilliant and heartbreaking and it left me yearning for the series finale.

Again, Dick Hill is on board as narrator to bring Alan Gregory to life. While Dick Hill is quite respected in his ability to bring the big, bad assed, butt kicking hero types to life, I have always enjoyed the softness that he brings to the Alan Gregory character. Alan is never smooth, often fumbling over his words and his thoughts, and spends a lot of time     over analyzing life’s minutia within the walls of his own mind. While Hill captures the strengths of this character, he always gives him a slight edge of uneasiness that fits the character well. Also, you just have to love Hill’s Sam Purdy. Purdy is the crotchety cop friend that seems to become the staple of many thrillers, but in this series, he’s broken away enough from the stereotype to becomes something more. Hill manages to bring out a lot of Purdy’s dark humor and at the same times displays Purdy’s struggle between his dinosaur nature and his attempts to become more open minded. Even with a tremendous amount of heartbreakingly emotional moments, and our characters being in extreme desperate states, Hill manages to bring the fun and humor of the series to life. There is only one more chapter in Dr. Alan Gregory’s life left to go, and I await it with fearful anticipation.

Note:Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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3 responses

25 08 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

I’m impressed that the 19th book in any series can be called “brilliant and heartbreaking” without irony.

22 11 2015
Deborah

“Throughout the series, his best friends, two strong, but actually likeable women and a Boulder County Police Officer, all of which sort of push him around as well.”

I’m confused – maybe you just worded this incorrectly and you actually just meant to refer to Diane and Sam, but it sounds like you meant that he has two female best friends in addition to Sam. I have no idea who else could qualify as a female best friend besides Diane – since it doesn’t sound like you mean Lauren? Clarification would be appreciated.

22 11 2015
Deborah

Oh, wait, I get it. Adrienne! Sorry, I’m with you now. Since we’re beyond her death in this book I wasn’t counting her, but I see you meant your statement to apply to the series as a whole. My apologies.

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