I’ve never read anything by Andrew Gross. I was skeptical prior to reading this book because the author had long been one of the multitude of co-writers associated with James Patterson. I was sure I was going to get a 350-page book with 350 individual chapters that came across as if the whole thing had been thought up the previous day. But the story takes place in my home state of Colorado, so I felt obliged to give it a go.
Well, it turns out Mr. Gross has enjoyed plenty of solo-writing success already, without the necessity of a review by this blog-person. After reading One Mile Under, I think I can see why.
One Mile Under starts in a small town near Aspen, Colorado. Dani is a twenty-something white-water rafting guide. Occasionally, she wonders if she should be doing something more, but she loves her life well enough at the moment, so why change that? While guiding a group down the rapids on a fine morning, her cozy life is upended when she discovers the lifeless body of a close friend. It looks like an accident, and the authorities arrive to that conclusion, but Dani knows her friend could handle the rapids better than anyone. Something doesn’t feel right.
Unfortunately, Dani’s nosing around piques the interest of an unexpected and dangerous group in another town miles away on the plains. In the hopes of keeping Dani out of trouble, her step-father, the police chief of her town, calls her real father, who calls in an old friend named Ty Hauck.
In fact, the cover of the novel calls this a “Ty Hauck” novel. I don’t always like coming into a series where the main character has been around for a while. They tend to skip over character building that you need to pick up earlier books for, leaving the reader with a somewhat shallow experience. But in One Mile Under, Dani shares as much character space as Ty does. And the author himself divulges that he hasn’t written about Ty Hauck in 5 years. So he’s coming in relatively fresh.
I think it works. Without knowing anything about Ty Hauck, I thought the author made him interesting, even intriguing. The hints of his backstory without too many details (but just enough to let you know you could always go back and read one those books!) let my imagination wander around. I appreciated that.
It’s a thriller, so some characters will get short-shrift. But even minor ones such as the farmer Watkins, feel like there’s depth behind them. The author also appears to have done his homework on the locations and the subject matter. He didn’t just throw this together because it sounded good in his head.
Of course, the main question is, does it keep the pages turning? It is a thriller after all. It did for me. I read 2 full books on my short vacation and this was one of them. There is mystery, someone is always in danger, and, even better, the good guys are not invincible. Even in this era where we like to make big business the bad guy, and make them really, really bad, there was an air of realism to the whole thing. Not all of it, of course, but just enough of it. It wasn’t sure how it would play out and who might die by the end. Some bad guys are black and white, but some are grey (the best ones are grey). The good guys are not pure, but they do the right thing. I think the author liked his material and it shows.
So, yeah, if you are looking for a quick, page-turning thriller with a little more under the hood than a lot of other stuff out there, One Mile Under may just scratch that itch.
I really liked it.