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Book Review - "Out of Range" by Hank Steinberg

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar.

9780062080530_p0_v4_s260x420Hank Steinberg the creator of the hit TV series Without a Trace has written an action packed novel, Out Of Range. Similar to the television show this thriller keeps people guessing until the final page. Unlike other authors famous for their visual media credentials, Steinberg created a plot that is fast-paced with likeable protagonists and nasty antagonists. He even gets this point across in a subtle way by referring to the good guys with their first names and the bad guys by their last names.

Steinberg commented to, “Yes, the book feels like the biggest episode of Without A Trace. After working all those years on the TV show my brain subconsciously had the main theme.  The heart of every episode is that when someone went missing they had a secret that they were keeping from someone.  Inevitably it was what they kept from others that were the key to why they were taken.”

The plot takes off from the very first page when journalist Charlie Davis and his wife, Julie, an aid worker, barely escape a riot in Uzbekistan six years ago. Their friend Alisher Byko, a leader of the demonstration sees his wife and son shot to death by the government’s police.  Vowing never to put himself or his family in harm’s way Charlie accepts a position at the LA Times while Julie becomes a stay at home mom, raising their two children. They appear to be enjoying the life of a normal suburban family, which must include taking the children to Disneyland. On their return trip from the happiest place on earth, Julie and the children get stuck in typical LA traffic. She is on the phone with Charlie, discussing alternate routes, and agrees to call him as soon as she escapes the traffic jam. But the call never comes. Fearful for her safety, Charlie races to the area he sent her to. There, he finds police surrounding her car. The kids are both safe, but Julie is nowhere to be found. As with his TV show Julie vanishes unexpectedly without any rhyme or reason. As he searches for her, Charlie discovers secrets Julie has been hiding. Determined to find his wife and get answers from her, Charlie sets out on an international investigation that leads to the dangerous world of espionage and terrorism.

As with most thrillers the protagonist becomes an action hero to save the day. At times believability is suspended but this in no way distracts the reader from the fast-moving and intense plot.  There are a number of fascinating subplots from the motivations of the characters to understanding the conflicts within developing countries in Eastern Europe.

Steinberg explained to, “The character relationship is an essential part of the book.  Julie has an emotional connection with the antagonist Byko from their college days.  She is yearning for something from her past.  The spine of the book is about Julie and Charlie’s marriage and will they be able to reclaim their love.  These three characters have a unique and tangled relationship from the very beginning.  After the tragic event in Uzbekistan Charlie went into hiding; Julie yearned to be a part of something that would make a difference; and Byko succumbed to his rage and vengefulness. That is why I choose the setting of the Eastern European country of Uzbekistan. I wanted a place that would be greyer in terms of the moral pallet, and would create some complexity for the protagonist.  I was able to use the setting to emphasize the theme where there are these three people that must deal with the fear, guilt, and tragedy of an event that started in this country.”

One of the most interesting parts of the book is the portrayal of Julie as a discontented stay at home mom.  These feelings appear to drain the spark from their marriage, to the point that Julie contemplates leaving Charlie. The tension in their marriage has Julie searching for something more than just being a housewife, which is why she decides to help British intelligence find a terrorist whom she knows from her college days. This subplot is a great story about people who just want to make a difference in their own small way.

Steinberg explained he created Julie’s character, “To reflect the modern day woman. Even though she was a kidnapped woman held in a fortress she never cried for help but courageously dealt with the interrogation and the circumstances.  She knowingly refused to give up.  She has big ambitions and wants to do more with her life than just being a housewife.  A lot of women contemplate giving up their career to raise their children.  There is the internal conflict of being engaged, involved, and doing something more with your life.  There are these yearnings and secrets within Julie that I hope women can relate to.  I wanted to explore the dynamics between two people and how the relationship changes when the circumstances shift. Julie felt disconnected to the outside world while living in Los Angeles.  There are not very many more places you can go to where you feel that you are living in a bubble.”

Out Of Range is an intriguing story with many twists and turns.  Readers will be kept on the edge of their seats with this suspenseful plot.  There is non-stop action from beginning to end with fascinating characters.