Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Review: Diversion by Eden Winters
The story begins right into the heart of a thrilling scene which had me on the edge of my seat. We meet our narrator, Lucky, who is working an inside job, casing out a pharmacy warehouse. We follow his careful movements as all the pieces slot into place and he steals a truck full of medicines. At this point I was seriously thinking 'Is he really going to be a bad guy?'. This was reinforced by Lucky's aggressive narration and general disdain for everyone he meets. I shouldn't have worried (or rather maybe I should have read the blurb) because Lucky is actually one of the good guys working for the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau's Department of Diversion Prevention and Control. Their role is to monitor suspicious activities amongst pharmacies, clinics or pharmaceutical companies, often through surveillance and/or undercover work. Lucky's past as a drug trafficker gives him the ideal insight and ability to work in the team, even if he had no choice in the matter as the only alternative was eight years in prison. As the story begins, Lucky is weeks away from the end of that eight year 'sentence'. He's hoping for a few quiet weeks in the office on paperwork duty when his hopes are dashed and he's forced into a partnership with newbie Bo, staking out a suspicious clinic. The sparks fly between them almost from the start as Lucky is determined to be a difficult as possible.
There was so much to enjoy about this story. Firstly it did something I absolutely love in a book - taught me some stuff I didn't know. I had no idea about the world of pharmacies, medicines, under the counter medication and medicines which are on a short shelf life being 'recycled'. I found this whole area totally fascinating. When I thought about drug trafficking, I thought about heroin, crack or other illegal drugs, not prescription meds. I also really liked how all the information was fed to me as the story progressed, bit by bit so that by the end I had a pretty good grasp of this type of crime.
The character of Lucky was another reason I loved this book. At some point near the beginning of the story he likens himself to a fighting bantam cock, which I felt was a perfect description. He's small and slight with hard muscles built from a punishing exercise regime. He makes up for his small stature by exuding as much aggressive personality as possible. He hates pretty much everyone and behaves in a way which is guaranteed to make others hate him back. It's a sort of defense mechanism. It was rather ironic then that this actually had the opposite effect on people as they viewed Lucky with a certain amount of grudging admiration. Lucky is the narrator, so we only get his views and I think half the time he just wanted to believe that people didn't like him or his attitude because that made it easier for him to distance himself from everyone. Early in the book he talks about the importance of not getting close to people. This may seem sad, almost tragic for a man who is a huge bundle of energy and obviously needs people, but there's a good reason why he pushes people away. That reason led to a number of quiet bittersweet scenes for Lucky and went a long way to understanding some of his actions in the book.
Bo is almost the opposite of Lucky. He's the calm to Lucky's manic aggression; he's clean living when Lucky drinks too much coffee and junk food; he's friendly and approachable to Lucky's 'don't come the fuck near me' vibe. Nevertheless, they still find common ground between them. Hands down my favourite part of the book was the slow creep of at first respect, then lust, then admiration, trust and love between them. I delighted in seeing how Bo sneaked around all of Lucky's defenses to expose the real heart of Lucky through a determination to be as polite and good natured as possible. I laughed at the effect that this had on the perpetually grumpy Lucky and laughed even more at some of the devious schemes Lucky devises to get Bo to lose his temper. The time they spent together on the page made me smile, laugh, wince and occasionally wish to bang their heads together. I was a truly rewarding romantic read.
Finally I really enjoyed seeing the suspense plot work out. The stake-outs and undercover work provided a tense backdrop to the relationship. Nearly the entire book is spent with Bo and Lucky either together on the job, or in the house they share as part of their role in the operation. This meant that the romance is intertwined with the suspense and action, adding to the emotional core of the story. At times I was biting my finger nails. That finale! I don't want to give away spoilers, but trust me I was on the edge of my seat, wholly engrossed in what was happening on the page.
If you're looking for a strong character based book which is heavy on romance, action, plot; if you want a pair of opposites attract characters who are wholly sympathetic and consistently behave true to character; if you want a book you can hardly bear to put down; then I can highly, highly recommend this book. I can see it being one of my top reads of the year. Grade: Beyond Excellent!
Buy this book HERE.