A high-stakes, darkly intriguing work of verse fiction…
Set in the 1960s and rife with violence, bloodshed, revenge, and intrigue, Kovacs’s free-verse crime thriller sees a pair of dangerous inmates trying to escape the maximum-security prison to carry out a personal vendetta. For Michael Ennis, a violent criminal, life in a maximum-security prison is not always easy: there are tyrannical guards and violent inmates to deal with and a desire to exact vengeance on his murderous father, whom he hates with a vengeance is constantly on his mind. Michael’s only source of support is his childhood friend Bruno. Michael knows he has to escape from prison if he wants to realize his malevolent goal. But breaking free is not as easy as it seems on the surface. Kovacs’s word choices are clear and descriptive, constructing vivid images that pair well with the free verse form, making the story both accessible and appealing. This style makes for some defunct passages, but overall, Michael and Bruno’s quest to escape the prison and exact their revenge is convincing. There is a fair amount of violence, bloodshed, and intrigue. The darkness of the theme provides heft to the story, raising the stakes while giving the protagonists plenty of reason to escape and realize their goal. In Michael, there’s this somewhat tired trope of the hero as victim of his traumatic upbringing, a bad boy seeking to settle the old scores. The forever-faithful Bruno, who would do anything for his friendship is also a familiar type. But Michael and Bruno’s bond gives their characters an added dimension. Arlene is skillfully sketched, a fiercely determined, sympathetic character. The darkness of the theme is enhanced by visceral imagery of bloodshed and violence. Readers will be able to figure out the outcome long before the story reaches its culmination, but the ending does drop a bombshell or two. Extreme violence and gritty language are appropriate to the plot and characters. Along the way, Kovacs delves into themes of love, hate, passion, friendship, revenge, and redemption. The novel is as much a sketchbook of the personalities struggling to break free of both internal and external binds as it is a deep exploration of loyalty, family, and friendship. A tense, fast-paced story in which the reader keeps wishing everything would turn out fine for the deeply flawed but sympathetic hero even though they know it’s morally corrupt.
The N. M. E.: A novel
By Ryan A. Kovacs
Pub date July 11, 2019
Price $18.99 (USD) Paperback, $7.49 Kindle edition