By David Klein
Broadway Books, 376 pgs
Submitted by Random House
The only people who stay in character in Clean Break are a gambling addict (Adam) and a 10-year-old child (Spencer). Now I don't know about you but I would tend to believe that the man with no character left, and the young one just developing character, would be the ones most likely to violate. Instead it's the adults, who have up until now been solid, responsible and dependable citizens. Now they are, variously: murderers, adulterers, liars, accomplices, ethically-challenged (to say the least) and one of them is so underdeveloped, in terms of character, that I cannot understand why she inspires so much passion in the others (Celeste).
Adam and Celeste are divorcing after more than a decade of marriage because Adam is a gambling addict who has become dangerously unpredictable and even physically violent. He has managed to bet and lose his way through the savings, 401(k)s, IRAs, retirement funds, college funds and pretty much everything they owned. Celeste and Spencer have to vacate the family home for a rental in a shabby part of Brookfield, a suburb of New York. They move while Adam is in a treatment facility for 3 months. When he is released and begs Celeste to come back to him, she refuses. It's not long after that he's gambling again. Celeste discovers his relapse and confronts him, for which he assaults her and is choking her when a man happens upon the scene and intervenes (Jake).
Long story short, Celeste and Jake begin a tentative relationship. Adam (who is stalking her by now) sees a kiss, the only kiss up to this point, and goes bananas, threatening everyone in sight. What happens now is either predictable or unpredictable depending on your point of view and understanding of character. The events that take place are predictable in terms of the formula for a suspense novel, but unpredictable in terms of the potentialities of these particular characters. I found the motivations of quite a few of these people to be unbelievable given the arcs of their lives to this point.
You have been a fine upstanding citizen for 42 years but all of a sudden (a matter of weeks) you're offering inside information to a vendor during a confidential contract bid and running around on your husband (Sara)? Or you have been a strictly career-oriented bachelor for 40 years, you move cross-country every few years for a new job, no ties, fancy free and now you are in love and devoted to a woman with all of these problems, so delusional that you are willing to commit the ultimate sin?
In addition, the style of storytelling got on my nerves. You can read a chapter, for instance, and instead of trusting his reader, the author adds a paragraph summing up what happened in the chapter and pointing out the significance of a clue, in case you weren't paying attention. Left me thinking the author felt the need to spoon-feed his audience. Clean Break is an OK book but if I were you I'd choose something else. David Klein has promise and has written a previous book titled Stash which got good reviews, so I'm going to try that one and I'll be back to let you know whether the author is better than Clean Break and deserves a second look.
For more on the author: http://bydavidklein.com/
For more on the publisher: http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/broadway-books/