Friday, March 10, 2006

On the Run, by Iris Johansen

By Christina VanGinkel

Iris Johansen is the type of author, who through her words, quickly draws you into the story at hand, by making you like, and care about the characters. Their traits may not be those that would normally make you associate with them if they were real, but nonetheless, you find yourself caring for and having empathy for the people she writes about. Her book 'On the Run' is an ideal example of how she can take a seemingly off the wall crowd of characters, and turn them into a cast that you care about more and more as the story she is weaving unwinds. Full of intrigue, CIA tales, double agents, Saharan fables, gypsies, horses, gunfire, love, and secrets built upon secrets that are many years old, and more, you will be constantly propelled to keep turning the pages of this book from the very first until the last.

It tells the story of Grace Archer and her nine-year-old daughter, Frankie. One the run and being protected by the Witness Protection Program since she was pregnant with Frankie, she has been living a relatively quiet life on a ranch as a horse trainer. A horse lover actually, much more than a trainer, as she talks to the horses, and woos them to her side with understanding instead of brawn. She has a way with the horses that many only dream about, so she spends her days busting broncos and helping her daughter discover her own hidden ways with both horses, and especially music. Little Frankie can hear music when others hear nothing, and is a genius by all standards. All of these traits come together to make two of the most interesting characters in any book that I have read in a long time.

When the seemingly serene life Grace and Frankie are living is suddenly shattered, along with the death of the older man that owns the ranch, Grace realizes that the life she has so comfortably settled into does not really exist. In addition, it has no chance to ever be comfortable again, not until she deals with the past at least. That past entails details about her Grace's own father, which she has known about for years, but has denied with every breath she breathes. It includes how she was raised; the child of a double agent, hopping about the world with no more thought than most kids would give to riding their bikes around the block they live on. Could her father have gone so far as to even double deal with the corrupt worlds he dealt with, where she and her safety were concerned?

Add to the mix, CIA agents who she thought were protecting her for one reason, only to discover that all that she believed true on that account was not as it seemed. Then when they suddenly revoke all protection unless she agrees to their unrealistic demands, which amounts to both herself and Frankie being bait for the very man who tried to kill her nine years ago, she is stunned. She refuses, and must find another way to protect both Frankie and herself, even trading one evil for what she believes another. All of these events are further complicated by the likes of people who she is not sure are friends or foe, such as the enigmatic Kilmer, who she considers her number one enemy, along with a former CIA agent who now works for Kilmer by the name of Robert, and friends from her past such as Donovan. Then, when even her newest planning falls apart, she does what any mother who loves her child would, protects her at all costs, even if that might mean her own death.

Add to all of this a mysterious blue eyed 'pair' that hold a secret worth more than anyone could even begin to imagine, and you have a story so complete that you will only be sorry that the book ends. If you enjoy fast-paced thrillers, with lots of intrigue, and even a hot love interest tossed into the mix to make sure each page is as action packed as the one before it, then be sure to check out Iris Johansen's newest winner, On the Run!

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