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Nothing Short of Dying by Erik Storey

Sixteen years. That’s how long Clyde Barr has been away from Colorado’s thick forests, alpine deserts, and craggy peaks, running from a past filled with haunting memories. But now he’s back, having roamed across three continents as a hunter, adventurer, soldier of fortune, and most recently, unjustly imprisoned convict. And once again, his past is reaching out to claim him.

By the light of a flickering campfire, Clyde received a frantic phone call for help from Jen, the youngest of his three older sisters. Then the line goes dead. Clyde doesn’t know how much time he has. He doesn’t know where Jen is located. He doesn’t even know who has her. All he knows is that nothing short of dying will stop him from saving her.

Tagging along with Clyde on this strange, desperate, against-all-odds rescue mission is a young woman named Allie whose motivations for hurtling into harm’s way are fascinatingly complex. As the duo races against the clock, it is Allie who gets Clyde to see what he has become and what he can be.

Time for another debut novel and this time out we’re into the realms of the old school thriller.

When we first meet Clyde Barr, he is living off the grid. Wanting nothing more than a quiet life, he has turned his back on society. He has made mistakes in the past and has made the decision to walk away from it all and make his home in the wilderness. Circumstance intervenes however, and a promise made decades before comes back to haunt him. Barr’s estranged sister contacts him out of the blue looking for help. Now I’m not just talking about your everyday run of the mill kind of help either, this is more like a ‘someone is going to end up dead’ sort of a scenario.  Even though Barr is conflicted by this request, he also isn’t the sort of man who makes promises lightly. When he agrees to help someone out, nothing and no one will stop him from fulfilling his goal.

There is a no-nonsense quality to Barr that makes him instantly appealing as a hero. If he sees someone suffering, he is compelled to help. He comes across like that near mystical gunslinger type. He appears when needed, sorts out the bad guys and the then disappears back into the wilderness.  This makes Nothing Short of Dying a solidly entertaining debut, and Clyde Barr is a suitably enigmatic protagonist. Storey has peppered the narrative with a handful of glimpses into Barr’s past, but as the plot unfolds, it is evident that there is plenty that has been left unsaid. I’m sure these gaps in our hero’s past will be explored in future novels.

Where the novel really excels are the chapters set in the American wilderness. Erik Storey obviously knows this part of the world well and does a great job of vividly capturing the sense of isolation and emptiness in these huge stretches of the country. It’s easy to understand why Barr would choose to live the simple life and lose himself in the mountains.

Nothing Short of Dying is exactly the sort of book I enjoy reading when I’m on holiday or travelling. The plot is straightforward, but well executed and compelling. It’s easy to get caught up in the action and the chapters whip along at a cracking pace. It is exactly the sort of adventure that is bound to keep a reader hooked. I’ll be looking out for the return of Erik Storey and Clyde Barr in the future.

Nothing Short of Dying is published by Simon & Schuster and is available now.

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