Book Review: 'And West is West'

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 “And West is West” by Ron Childress | c.2015, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill | $26.95 / $36.95 Canada | 320 pages

Six degrees of separation.

That, supposedly, is the difference between you and any given person on the planet. Your dentist, for example, knows somebody who knows someone who… and pretty soon, you’re linked to a famous scientist or Hollywood star. It’s a fun pastime, that Six Degrees thing, and surprisingly easy to do but in the new novel “And West is West” by Ron Childress, it could also be a deadly game.

Living with Zoe wasn’t originally Ethan’s desire.

She’d stayed at his Manhattan condo many times – they were a couple, after all - but he was still surprised when he heard himself ask her to move in, and equally surprised that she agreed. Yes, he loved her – which was something he only truly realized just before she left for a job in D.C.

Heartbroken, Ethan turned to his other love: coding for United Imperial Bank.

For him, it was the perfect job. UIB gave him an office and freedom to write algorithms to follow terrorists in order to follow the markets, creating serious money for Ethan and for his employers. That, plus Zoe, could’ve made him happy.

Except Zoe was gone, then someone set Ethan up to fail at work and his job was gone, too. And just as he thought things were looking up, Zoe was dead and Ethan was left holding the secrets of her life that her parents couldn’t tell her.

It always seemed as though Jessica Aldridge was running.

She ran away from her mother’s alcoholism as a child. She ran away from family as a teen. She ran to the Air Force, where she became a highly-trained drone pilot but, since a remote strike had gone horribly wrong and someone had to take the fall for it, she ran from that, too.

But Jessica had just been following orders then. Her real mistake, she understood, was confiding her misgivings to the wrong person: her imprisoned father, whom she barely knew. She also understood that the government wasn’t going to take a breach of security lightly - and with the FBI on her tail, Jessica had to run again…

I have to admit that I was no big fan of “And West is West” when I started it. Its first few pages were more techy than I expected, and I wasn’t in the mood for that.

Whoo, was I glad I stayed.

Once you get past the prologue, author Ron Childress takes readers in a whole different, unexpected direction with what seems like a profile of a psychologically flawed man. Ethan, in fact, is driven, indecisive, and so very imperfect – which makes him the perfect distraction from the page-ripping thriller that is Jessica. It seems unlikely, then, that the two are connected, but you’ll recall that six degrees stuff?

Yep, and it doesn’t even take that many steps.

This is one of those keeps-you-up-at-night, miss-your-subway-stop kinds of books that you’ll pass around to friends. It’s one to take to your book club. For sure, “And West is West” is a solid ten.


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