*I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review*
Synopsis from Good Reads:
Sam Dryden, retired special forces, lives a quiet life in a small town on the coast of Southern California. While out on a run in the middle of the night, a young girl runs into him on the seaside boardwalk. Barefoot and terrified, she’s running from a group of heavily armed men with one clear goal—to kill the fleeing child. After Dryden helps her evade her pursuers, he learns that the eleven year old, for as long as she can remember, has been kept in a secret prison by forces within the government. But she doesn’t know much beyond her own name, Rachel. She only remembers the past two months of her life—and that she has a skill that makes her very dangerous to these men and the hidden men in charge.
Dryden, who lost his wife and young daughter in an accident five years ago, agrees to help her try to unravel her own past and make sense of it, to protect her from the people who are moving heaven and earth to find them both. Although Dryden is only one man, he’s a man with the extraordinary skills and experience—as a Ranger, a Delta, and five years doing off-the-book black ops with an elite team. But, as he slowly begins to discover, the highly trained paramilitary forces on their heels is the only part of the danger they must face. Will Rachel’s own unremembered past be the most deadly of them all?
I really enjoyed this book. The pace is fast and there’s a lot of action. I don’t usually like a lot of action, but Lee really made it work in Runner. Too often I feel like the author details it to death, to the point where it’s almost impossible to follow what’s actually happening. Here it was detailed without going overboard and it was all plausible. I also felt the pace was pretty perfect. It wasn’t just Go, Go, Go, but more like Go, Go, Go, Pause, Go, Go, Go, Pause, etc. The story moved along quickly, with lots of action, but it took time with quieter moments where there was character development and plot reveals.
The main character, Sam Dryden, is very likable. He’s a smart, caring, stand-up guy that always does the right thing. His experience in Special Forces makes him uniquely qualified to help Rachel escape her attackers and try to figure out the secrets that live in her head. Rachel was an intriguing character with lots of sides to her. My only complaint with her is that she almost always seemed much older than her eleven years. Martin Gaul, the man leading the hunt for Rachel and Dryden, is another interesting character – mostly despicable, but still a little sympathetic.
There were a lot of twists and turns in this book, perhaps the most surprising to me was that there is a large sci-fi element to the story. It’s not a bad surprise, I just didn’t expect it. Despite that, the story still seemed realistic in all its other aspects and contained enough surprises to keep me guessing the whole way.
While most chapters focused on Dryden, Rachel, or Gaul, there were other chapters that focused on Gaul’s competitor, Hager, and those he was training. While those chapters were interesting and informative, they also contained perhaps the only thing I didn’t care for in the book – the slightly graphic use of sex as motivation. Maybe it’s just a guy thing, but I didn’t quite see the need and it made me a little uncomfortable. However, since there were only a few examples of that, it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of the rest of the story.
Overall, I really enjoyed Runner. It was suspenseful, fast paced, and action packed, but also smart and sweet. This looks to be the first book in a series based on Sam Dryden and I look forward to the next. I would recommend Runner to those who enjoy mystery, suspense, action, and a little dose of sci-fi.
*Runner will be available on February 18, 2014*