Friday, April 27, 2007

American Outrage - Tim Green



American Outrage
Tim Green
Warner Books

Thriller

Jake Carlson, a journalist by trade, has turned in stories from some of the most dangerous areas in the world. Now a reporter for the TV tabloid show “American Outrage,” Jake spends his time interviewing murders, spouses of victims, and nannies to the stars. Since the death of his wife a year ago, Jake has been letting his professional life slide, and his contract renewal is hanging by a thread. His personal life isn’t going smoothly, either. His 13-year-old son, Sam, has been getting into fights at school and now faces expulsion. In despair and confusion, Sam begs Jake to help him find his biological mother.

Jake and his late wife adopted infant Sam through possibly-shady channels. They were told that Sam came from Albania. Jake, eager to help Sam heal, begins his search with the adoption lawyer, but finds that the lawyer died in suspicious circumstances. The adoption agency is gone, and the Albanian embassy is less than forthcoming. It’s clear that some very dangerous people would like Jake to drop the whole thing: he’s followed, shot at, and becomes the focus of tabloid TV instead of the reporter.

I usually enjoy Tim Green’s books, so I’m sorry to report that this one is mostly a miss for me. Jake is a stereotypically self-centered reporter. He’s rude to everyone until he needs or wants something; then he manages to be shocked when those same people aren’t quick to help him. Sam is a stock disaffected teen who is a genius with computers, able to guess the passwords of people he barely knows. I understand that the author is making a point about the bonds of family, and Jake’s love for his son is clear, but it seems that allowing an already emotionally unstable teenager to participate in a search like this is ill-advised, to say the least.

Sam’s request to find his birth mother (not his father, interestingly) is presented as a way for a troubled boy to understand himself and, not incidentally, pull Jake into a mystery. But I can’t help wondering how it will it help Sam if it turns out that his birth mother sold him because she couldn’t afford to care for him? How will it help him at all if he discovers that his mother didn’t care enough to keep him? These are things that Jake, as an adult who has seen the misery of the world first-hand as a news correspondent, should realize. On the brighter side, the thriller aspects work quite well, and the pacing is lighting-fast. And it’s entertaining to watch the reaction of Jake when he becomes the story, instead of the reporter.

Rating: 6 ½
April 2007
ISBN# 0-446-57743-X (hardcover)

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