The Cheltenham Literature Festival – 5th to 14th October 2018
Tense thriller set in Southern California
24th January 2018
Deep Blue Trouble by Steph Broadribb – tense thriller set in Southern California.
Lori Anderson is a bounty hunter. They are a peculiarly American phenomenon. Bondsmen (for a fee) offer to post bail for a suspected criminal. The bail, though, is forfeited if the suspect does not turn up for a court appearance. If they attempt to vanish (as a fair number do…) before the appearance, then the bondsman employs a bounty hunter to track them down and bring them in. The bounty hunter earns between 10% and 15% of the bond as his or her fee – it can be very lucrative. It is, though, a dangerous and a violent occupation – and only just about on the right side of the law.
In Deep Down Dead, Lori took on the job of bringing back her erstwhile business and personal partner, James Robert Tate (JT), who had skipped bail to Florida from West Virginia to face charges. JT himself was a former bounty hunter and Lori’s mentor. She needed the money to pay her daughter, 9 year old Dakota’s, medical bills (she has leukaemia, but it is in remission…). Despite the somewhat bizarre situation, and her misgivings, she took the job. It did not go smoothly, with much violent action and JT eventually saving the lives of both Lori and Dakota – before learning he was Dakota’s father. It is a pulsating book and an excellent read.
Deep Blue Trouble picks up where Deep Down Dead leaves off. JT (in order to protect Lori) confesses to killings he did not commit. She needs him free and out of jail to try and pick up where they had left their lives 10 years’ previously – and to be a father to Dakota. She is recruited by Alex Monroe, a somewhat dubious FBI officer, to capture Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher who has just broken out of jail and is on the run. But why does Monroe not use the forces of law and order? Why does he use a freelancer? Why does he need time with Fletcher before he is sent back to jail? Lori doesn’t, though, ask too many questions – as Monroe has promised her JT’s release if she brings in Fletcher. A prize she is desperate to claim.
The trail leads her to San Diego in Southern California. Family, Friends, Freedom – JT had taught her these were the things most important to a fugitive, and the key to tracking him down. She got nowhere with Family – a brother who didn’t want to know Fletcher, and who seemed genuine enough. She had more luck with Friends. Mia, unhappily married, had an affair with Fletcher lasting many years. Lori senses he would attempt to contact her and heads for San Diego where she has relocated with her violent husband. Close to the Mexican border which is where Freedom comes in. She works (unwillingly, but on Monroe’s orders) with a local bounty hunting firm – with connections to Mexico should Fletcher have already crossed the border. They track down Fletcher, and the finale is both dramatic and blood soaked.
In the course of the book Lori works out Monroe’s motivation for seeking her help, and she is also followed and threatened by members of the Miami mob – who believe she has killed some of theirs (the crime to which JT has falsely confessed…). She is set up to work again with Monroe on a sting involving the Chicago mob – don’t think it takes a genius to work out this will be the next Lori Anderson adventure!
Steph Broadribb is, perhaps oddly given the nature of what she writes about, a Brit. She absolutely has the ability to construct a great American-style page turning thriller, bursting with action. Her books are hard to put down until you have finished them.
Tony for the TripFiction team
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