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Monday, December 22, 2014

Fifty Mice: A Novel by Daniel Pyne (Review)

Adult, Psychological Thriller
Publication.Date  December 30th 2014
Published By:  Blue Rider Press
AuthorDaniel Pyne

Fifty Mice: A Novel on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher via First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

What if a man is placed in the Federal Witness Protection Program against his will? 
And doesn’t even know what he supposedly knows that merits a new name, a new identity, a new life?

Jay Johnson is an Average Joe, a thirty-something guy with a job in telephone sales, a regular pick-up basketball game, and a devoted girlfriend he seems ready to marry. But one weekday afternoon, he’s abducted on a Los Angeles Metro train, tranquilized, interrogated, and his paper trail obliterated. What did he see, what terrible crime—or criminal—is he keeping secret? It must be something awfully big. The trouble is, Jay has no clue. 

Furious and helpless, and convinced that the government has made a colossal mistake, Jay is involuntarily relocated to a community on Catalina Island—which turns out to be inhabited mainly by other protected witnesses. Isolated in a world of strangers, Jay begins to realize that only way out is through the twisted maze of lies and unreliable memories swirling through his own mind. If he can locate—or invent—a repressed memory that might satisfy the Feds, maybe he can make it back to the mainland and his wonderful, even if monotonous, life.

Set in a noir contemporary L.A. and environs, Fifty Mice is a Hitchcockian thriller as surreal and mysterious as a Kafka nightmare. Chilling, paranoiac, and thoroughly original, it will have readers grasping to distinguish what is real and what only seems that way.


"And what about all those things he would rather not have to remember?
The drunken stupors, the petty betrayals, the missteps, the blown layups, the bad sex, the wasted hours, days, weeks, the lies, the secrets" 
"Assumptions are the enemy of truth, and truth is all we're after."
"All memories are false, you do understand this? Re-experiencing the experience is, by definition, a distortion. We don't remember anything exactly the way it happened because we aren't there anymore, present in that particular moment of being. And the pieces we do remember, we will add to, or subtract from, over the course of time, in order for us to make sense of them. We rewrite," he stresses the word pointedly, "usually to make ourselves look better."

"What happens when everything you've known is made a lie? And all the lies play true? Are you the sum of your memories, or a collection of consensual, verifiable facts?" 

     If you like books that keep you on the edge of your seat, make you paranoid and have you thinking you might be losing your mind, Fifty Mice is perfect for you. And if you happen to be into gut-wrenching psychological thrillers that really mess with your brain, then you simply can't afford to miss it

     Jay is just an average, unremarkable guy who lives his life entirely on the surface. He has a boring job and a fiancé he has trouble fully committing to. And then, in a blink of an eye, everything gets flipped inside out. Jay gets kidnapped and thrown into a witness protection program (completely against his will). New identity, new home (isolated island community), new family, new everything. Why? Because he knows something. He is a witness. His testimony is crucial. The only problem is Jay has no clue what it is he knows, or if he's even the right guy, all he knows is he needs to get out.

     Fifty Mice is an enigma. A riddle. A mystery wrapped up in layers of lies and half-truths. Reading this book made me feel like drowning in quicksand - the harder I wrecked my brain for answers, desperately trying to make sense of what was happening, the more confused, paranoid and panicky I felt. I couldn't breathe normally. I felt sticky and uncomfortable. I was hopelessly hooked. 

     Jay's fractured and, therefore, unreliable memory adds to the suffocating atmosphere of this story. The writing is very good. It's straight-forward and easy to read, though not entirely free of existential and philosophical themes. Some passages - particularly those revolving around the themes of memory, past, identity, belonging - really stay with you for a long time. They resonate deep within and force you to pause and think about them. There are also moments of true heartbreak and gut-wrenching discoveries buried deep in the flesh of this novel. And those are some powerful moments - they're like punches; they sting. 

     The way this book is written makes you feel like you're reading a movie script - and it's really no surprise since Pyne is a screenwriter (Fractured, The Sum Of All Fears). I will be very surprised if this doesn't get optioned for a movie adaptation. It would make an awesomely twisted movie - think Shutter Island meets Memento meets Bourne Identity. Who wouldn't want to watch that? 

     Fifty Mice has some really beautifully rendered, captivating scenes. My favorite is hands down the one in which Jay tries to escape by crawling into an air vent. It was absolutely priceless. I burst out laughing a few times - it was absurd and beyond hilarious - but I also felt Jay's desperation to get away. I understood how trapped he felt. Just like a mouse in a maze. It was brilliant. 

     Pacing wise, the first 200 pages are on the slower side - the author is weaving his spiderweb, setting his trap, drawing you in and making sure you stay there. This part is more psychological, more atmospheric and gritty.. You really have no idea what is going on, you begin to suspect every one - and I mean EVERYONE - and some really crazy conspiracy theories are popping into your brain - a different one every chapter - until you are rendered completely clueless and questioning your own sanity. And then the last 100 pages or so are pure insanity - action-packed, blood-boiling, mind-spinning, heart-crushing insanity. The only thing I guess fell a bit flat for me, was the ending itself. It was a good ending - very fitting and well thought-out - but I kind of hoped for it to pack a stronger punch. However, while not as thoroughly exhilarating as the events preceding it, it was still a satisfying conclusion to a very good story.

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