David Morrell

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"Long Lost"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark JUN 26, 2002)

I've been meaning to read more from David Morrell, but although I'm forever picking up his books, they end up in my to-be-read-and-reviewed pile. So when I received Long Lost in the mail, I said to myself "this is it --- I am going to crack open this book now and read it before another gets lost in the ever growing TBR stack."

Read excerptAnd like his earlier novels, that's all it took, I was sucked in. I'm surprised I managed to get dinner together before finishing the novel.

Brad Denning narrates the events in Long Lost. From the start we learn that he regrets the day that he appeared on TV in which the host featured him, his business and his family. His forte as a Denver architect is to design homes that blend into their environment. Part of the interview included an accounting of the tragedy that happened when he was a kid and his younger brother, Petey, was abducted on his way home from a baseball park. We learn that Brad has always felt that this was his fault since it happened after Brad's friend complained about Petey being too young and asked Brad to get rid of him. So when Petey never makes it home again, Brad wonders everyday, from that day on, what happened to his brother and if he is even alive.

As to be expected, after the TV show, an array of con men come out of the woodwork and claim to be his long lost brother. When the first one called, Brad was naive enough to get excited, but when he realized what was up, he had his secretary screen the remainder of the calls. Then three days after the show, as he is leaving his office, a man presents himself as Petey and seems to know things that only the real Petey could possibly know. Though skeptical at first, Brad quickly comes to see that this scruffy man is his long lost brother --- and he brings him home to meet his family.

Petey's story is a hard one. The years that he was missing were spent in captivity where he was continuously abused. He managed to escape when he was a teenager, but never found his family since they had moved away from their childhood town. Since then he's been living by whim, taking odd construction jobs, and living possession free. By chance Petey was watching TV in a Butte, Montana diner on the day the stationed aired Brad's interview. So here Petey sits with his brother's family, after all these years --- and seemingly well adjusted for all that he lived through.

You can well imagine the regret that hung over Brad all those years and so he is more than generous to Petey. But during these get reacquainted chapters (which are short and less than a dozen), we as the reader are hanging on edge; afterall, Brad has already said that he wishes he hadn't done the TV interview, which means that he wishes his brother hadn't found him. Plus, it's hard not to know something bad is about to happen because even the dust jacket flap warns us. And then it happens. Suddenly Petey is gone and he's taken Brad's wife and son. And Brad's life is truly shattered. But he understands Petey's motivation --- look at all that Brad has and Petey doesn't --- and Petey's rotten life was all Brad's fault. As much as this is painful, his revenge theory is what gives Brad hope that his wife and son are still alive. But when the FBI investigates they find that this man was not Peter Denning.

Whereas, Morrell has created some fairly skilled action men in the past, like Rambo and even Brendan Buchanan in Assumed Identity, Brad Denning is not one of these action heroes. He's soft from working in an office, and his survival experience is nil, he doesn't even know how to use a compass. The only thing he really knows well is how to build a house, of which he draws on this experience to keep him alive in some very life threatening situations. And after he realizes that the FBI is treating his missing wife and son as a cold case, he decides he needs to learn to investigate and to defend himself. Granted, Morrell keeps this realistic, so Brad Denning is never Rambo, instead he is an architect that learns how to use a gun, gets physically in shape, learns a few basic survival tricks and figures out what the compass is for.

And then he begins his investigation by getting into "Petey's" head (he refuses to believe the man he met was a hardened criminal called Lester Dant) and from there he follows a year old trail. Although there is a point where the plot starts to seem like it might be predicable, Morrell strays here and there and sticks in enough action --- like snakes and fire --- to keep the pages turning. You probably will guess the outcome but that's not a deterrent because as a domestic thriller (my term) it plays on family fears. Imagine that family member who has been long lost, showing up and then suddenly, the horrible event that happened as a child is replayed as an adult and now your own family is long lost.

I recommend this page-turning action thriller, to anyone who likes a good read but doesn't need their men tough --- just a really likable and loving husband and father who would do anything to get his family back.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 12 reviews

"Assumed Identity"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark MAY 30, 1998)

Assumed Identity's central character is Brendan Buchanan, a deep cover operative, who has assumed over 200 different personalities during his career.  But now he is to be himself, his biggest challenge.

It's an interesting concept and a fast moving book. I liked it quite a bit, but as I read the comments from Kirkus Review, I see that this may not be one of Morrell's best!  If this one is a let down compared to Morrell's other books, than I really need to read more of his novels. 

  • Amazon reader rating: from 29 reviews

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About the Author:

David MorrellDavid Morrell is one of America's most popular storytellers with more than twelve million copies of his novels in print. As creator of the Rambo character, his thrillers have been translated into twenty-two languages and made into record-breaking films as well as a top-rated TV miniseries.

To give his stories a realistic edge, he has been trained in wilderness survival, hostage negotiation, executive protection, antiterrorist driving, assuming identities, electronic surveillance, and weapons. A former professor of American literature at the University of Iowa, Morrell now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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