The richly-textured settings of Seattle’s commercial waterfront, San Diego’s topless beaches and the breathtaking waters off Cabo San Lucas create the backdrop for a riveting story of love, romance and betrayal, as a young couple find themselves in a fight for their lives having been set up by the FBI as perfect bait.
It’s curious how influenced I have been by the entertainment media–radio, TV, movies, etc. — how thirsty I have become for the action, the movement in a story. So much so that when I encounter a story like Perfect Bait, I find that I am impatient with the slow nature of the story. But after reading this book through and thinking on it for a while, I realized (or at least I think I got it right) that the author has started his story in much the same way life begins: slowly, orderly, with people and relationships that sound like the kind that populate many lives and make up family configurations. Corey Phillips began his life on the Seattle waterfront, learning the ways of the sea from the people surrounding him, learning to love the planet and to appreciate the myriad life forms that energize the world in all its manifestations. He learned about love from a high school sweetheart, a young woman who led him to believe that he was her whole world and would be forever. That beautiful bubble burst and shattered with betrayal and infidelity and Corey found himself far removed from his home territory, trying to build walls around his wounded self, hoping to find a way to survive intact.
The story does indeed move slowly, but I have to say that it was that ponderous and slow, insistent and sense of the inevitable that glued me to the pages of this book. Corey’s personal trials, his discovery of the possibilities of a new love, the discovery of a boat whose “voice” called out to him even as it was slowly dying in an impound yard in San Diego, the rather uneventful but somehow fascinating experiences of seeing that beautiful craft come back to life, and the new adventure that Corey and Jennifer embarked upon drew me deeper and deeper into their story so that when the crisis erupted and their personal lives literally were torn apart, I was almost not ready for it. The book had about it that sense of a Greek tragedy which had me wondering and wishing that these two very special people, both of whom seemed to have a deep sense of the ebb and flow of living in sync with the creation, might truly find peace and their own unique “happily ever after.” I was deeply disturbed that they ended up being used in such a cavalier way, knowing that all of us want to see the sex slave trade ended, but also worrying and grieving that these two people who had endured so much must now possibly see their lives shattered once again through no fault of their own. I must admit that I wondered if any kind of happy ending would even be possible for them.
By the time I was well into the story, I had a great appreciate for the author’s expertise in telling a powerful story in such a way that the power, the crisis, the true evil that was quietly waiting to ruin their lives and the lives of so many unsuspecting women and men caught me unawares. The novel turned out to be an I-can’t-put-it-down-for-any-reason kind of book. How glad I was that I stayed with the story. I have to admit that I probably like novels written in the first person the least of all. But this was really a fascinating story almost from the first, in spite of its seeming slow progress toward the “big bang” later in the tale. For those who are not familiar with the West Coast, this book is a kind of travel adventure of discovery. For those of us who have been to lots of the places mentioned in the story, it was a trip down memory lane. However, when the characters got involved in Mexico, I was as much a newbie as anyone else.
I think this is a really terrific read and one that will please readers who want a book they can take time to process and enjoy deeply. It’s also a novel I would love to see expanded with a sequel–Corey and Jennifer were just that interesting for me. I realize that not every novel will be expanded into a series, but I can’t help wondering what happened to these two people who managed in their own quiet way, to upend something that had hurt so many people. I hope you will take the time to read and enjoy this superb novel.
I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.
This book is available from Thunderbird Press. This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.