Run by Douglas E. Winter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the book so nice I bought it twice.
Well, actually it’s a pretty violent and dark story so it’s not all that nice. And the reason I ended up with two copies is that I’d bought it when it first came out in those bygone days before the world moved on when I’d browse the tables and shelves of the nearest Border’s and might just take home something with a snazzy cover that looked fun. Years later after I had moved a couple of times and sold or donated a lot of my old books another copy caught my eye in a used book store which gave me an urge to reread it. Thinking that I had gotten rid of the first one I bought it. Later I found my first copy packed away so I now had two, and yet still didn’t manage to read it again as more time passed. Dan coming to town gave me an opportunity to unload the extra one and finally check it out again with a buddy read as motivation.
Burdon Lane is gun dealer who usually doesn’t leave the house without at least a couple of pistols on him. Officially his business is legal, but unofficially he does all kinds of off-the-books and under-the-table sales on behalf of the arms broker he works for. The boss sends him along on a large deal to a street gang, and Burdon reluctantly goes even though the whole thing seems fishy. Things go sideways in a spectacle of violence and murder that leaves Burdon on the run with a gangbanger he just met.
This is a pretty well written thriller with a decent pace and a lot of action, but it’s far from flawless. It was published in 2000, and it really has that post-Pulp Fiction late-‘90s crime fiction style of trying to make the criminals cool even if they’re doing and saying things that make that genuinely awful people. At the start of the book Burdon is a thug, a killer, and a guy who will unironically bitch about how much the guvment is infringing on the gun rights of Americans even as he’s selling assault weapons to anyone who can pull a trigger. He’s also the kind of person who is comfortable using casual racist slurs. Fortunately, there’s an arc to the character that has him coming to some self-awareness and realizations at the end so this isn’t a case of just having an unlikable anti-hero throughout the book.
I think it might have been more interesting if the plot had actually been more centered around the gun dealing rather than dropping Burdon in the middle of a fairly standard conspiracy thriller. It takes a bit too long to really get going for a book of this type, but the pace is pretty decent once things start happening. It also drew the ending out for far too long while having a contradictory tone in which violence isn’t the answer at one moment, but in the next minute Burdon is being a cool bad-ass who is shooting up countless bad guys.
Overall, it’s a pretty good action thriller, but it wasn’t worth buying two copies.
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