If it weren’t for the unexpected death of her twin sister, Ginger, Danny Cleary—the heroine of Barbra Leslie’s new novel Cracked (Titan Books)—might still be holed up in her apartment mindlessly wasting away on crack cocaine. Sadly, her sister’s death is just the shot in the arm Danny needs to kick the habit—at least for a chapter or two—and seek vengeance on the person who killed her.
Hooked yet? Thought so.
Leslie has created an anti-hero to root for in the vein of Walt White from Breaking Bad: a tormented, down-on-herself woman who would much rather seek solace from the fumes of her crack pipe than deal with people face-to-face, or with life in general. (She doesn’t even have to go out to get her drugs; they are delivered straight to her apartment by courier just like a hot pizza.)
But when her sister’s own twin sons are kidnapped as well, Cleary abandons the relatively safe confines of her half-life to embark on a trippy, vigilante-styled quest for vengeance that takes her from the streets of LA to Toronto to a family cabin in the Maine wilderness.
Even as a desire for revenge becomes a new obsession for Cleary, though, old habits die hard. In between endless questions from nosy cops and increasingly violent confrontations with drug dealers and potential suspects in her sister’s death, Cleary all too readily indulges in her next fix. Readers, in turn, can’t help but wonder if she can stay straight long enough to get to the truth and, perhaps more importantly, turn her life around.
The first-person narrative allows readers to get deep inside Cleary’s thoughts and experience her feelings firsthand, including her sudden urges for a line of coke. While some might see Cleary’s more than occasional hits as an excuse for a pick-me-up, Leslie doesn’t downplay the effects the drug habit is having on Cleary’s mind and body. As Cleary points out early on, “for a crack addict, the coming down is so bad that you’d rather keep going until there is no going left.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Leslie piles on enough twists and turns and action-packed shoot-‘em-ups to keep readers turning pages late into the night.
Cracked marks Leslie’s second book—following her previously published novel, Nerve, and a screenplay for Straightedge Films—and is the first in a planned trilogy of adventures featuring Danny Cleary.
G. Robert Frazier is an author and screenwriter living in La Vergne, TN. Follow him on Twitter @grfrazier23 and visit his Adventures in Writing blog at https://grfrazier.wordpress.com for more reviews and stories about the writing life.
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