"Killer Choice" (Berkley), by Tom Hunt
Gary's pregnant wife, Beth, has a brain tumor. It's going to take $200,000 they don't have to save her. Fittingly, that's how much a drug dealer across town is willing to pay Gary for committing murder. Author Tom Hunt immediately thrusts readers into the conflict in "Killer Choice."
We meet Beth in the hospital, and when she receives what equates to a death sentence from the doctor, the scant details we know about the unlucky woman include little more than her hair color and marital status. Her 17-year marriage to Gary is given a few paragraphs of history, and after that Beth loiters largely in the background of the story, hanging out with her friends from yoga class and updating Gary on the lackluster progress of her fundraising website. Meanwhile Gary, intent on saving his wife's life, enters an underworld and attempts to keep his excursions under wraps.
The price tag for Beth's only chance of survival originates from a clinical trial in Germany and stands at the forefront of every chapter. However, readers may be left wondering if the couple would be better served by searching for cheaper accommodations in Europe, as the $200,000 includes airfare and lodging (and was casually estimated by a doctor, not a travel agent). The treatment's lackluster odds - thus far it's worked on 40 percent of a 25-person sample - also dampen the mood.
Hunt employs familiar backdrops. Grislier scenes take place in basements or abandoned buildings, and Gary passes much of his time plotting in his suburban home.
Despite the color-by-numbers feel to much of the read, the author delivers some surprises. As our hero burrows into a life of crime, his unfamiliarity with violence provides plenty of opportunities for failure.
With uncomplicated prose, simple setups and straight-forward characters, plot drives this thriller.