The latest thriller by Daniel Palmer Stolen is one someone should read after they're pushed against the ropes and have no idea what to do next. This is a cautionary tale that would make anyone think twice about any criminal activities they may have interest in persuing. Palmer weaves an intricate web of suspense and thrills with this cleverly plotted account of one man's attempt to save his wife who has recently been diagonosed with a very agressive form of skin cancer.
John Bodine and his wife Ruby Dawes are the average couple who are on the way to making life better for themselves after John's struggles with a climbing trip gone bad. John creates an online game and Ruby is in school to focus on alternative medicine after finding acupuncture helped John moderate some of the guilt he's felt since the climbing trip. After feeling increasingly lethargic, Ruby goes to a doctor and finds that she is battling with a very strong form of skin cancer that leaves her with very bad odds of living unless she's able to take prescription drugs. After finding out the generic brand isn't in stock, their insurance won't cover the name brand drug because there's a generic already made for it although it's unobtainable.
Essentially, the story of the insurance company not helping people when it's a life or death situation is not a unique dilemma. What makes this novel so compelling is that John later steals the identity of a guy who wasn't using his insurance, hadn't even paid the last three bills, so that his beloved wife can get the treatment she needs to increase her chances of living. The use of this insurance attracts the attention of the person's identity they stole. That man uses the stolen identity as leverage to entice John and Ruby into committing actual criminal acts or else. John assuming this is a trick decides not to go along and then lo and behold he's got a real nutcase on his hands.
Palmer writes this novel as a first-person narrative in John's point of view. Because the novel seems to happen in real-time the pace is extraordinary. I don't think there wasn't a minute I wasn't turning the pages to see what happens next. Initially I didn't want to like John because of the preface but his love for his wife and the constant guilt he tugs around made that dislike quickly change for me. The advantage of the first-person view is understanding what a person can withstand until they actually break and begin making choices they would normally not make if things were better. I almost felt through much of the novel that this is parallel to the justice system where someone does a petty crime and then is subjected to a life of crime because the punishment didn't fit the crime... but that's a whole nother discussion. Not to mention the healthcare debate that's also lingering in my mind when I read Stolen.
The one thing I felt was a little lacking was the character depth of the whacko in this novel but that can be attributed to the restraints of the first-person narrative. We only know what John knows. We can only follow the breadcrumbs that John finds and solve the mystery as he does.
Overall, after reading my first novel by Palmer I am a fan and will be looking to read more of his other works. Lovers of suspense thrillers will want to read this novel. It's more relavant than I think is expected and that's what's fun about it. This novel will beg readers to answer how far will they go to save the person they love. ***