Book Review

21/06/2011 Comments Off on Book Review

Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard

Out of Sight is a sprawling story that starts in a Florida correctional facility and ends in a snowy Detroit shoot-out.  And it’s a wonderful journey in-between.  It is also bittersweet to read, a testament to Leonard’s ability as a writer.  Leonard is a master at creating memorable, likable characters.  Even better, he does this while inserting his characters into wildly improbable scenarios.

In this case, Leonard asks the question of what would happen if a young, pretty female marshal fell for an old, grizzled bank robber who stages an escape from jail.  The answer, improbably, is that they would live happily, but only for a brief time.  Ever after doesn’t factor in here.

Most notably, this book is incredibly suspenseful, even though it is more a character study than a thriller.  As the relationship between Deputy Marshal Karen Sisco and ex-con Jack Foley grows closer and deeper, the sense of impending doom grows greater.  This is not altogether unexpected, for ex-con jail escapees do not generally fraternize with the enemy, so to speak, and law enforcement officers tend to feel more contempt than tenderness towards convicts, particularly those that kidnap while they try to escape from jail.

And yet, the reader wants this relationship, however improbable, to work.  And that’s where Leonard’s mastery lies.  Foley and Sisco are playing a high-stakes game with one another, especially since Sisco spends most of the book tracking Foley in order to avenge her kidnapping and humiliation.  Foley avoids capture by her, but just barely.  There are a few instances where he cuts it close in Florida, but he manages to get away.

Unfortunately, his luck does not last.  When he escapes to Detroit, Sisco tracks him down.  He concedes to her, in a manner, and they spend the night together in a hotel.  When she wakes up, he’s gone; however, he does leave a special gift for her.

He has left, the reader discovers, to perpetrate another crime.  He can’t stomach his new “associates,” so he rebels against their plan and takes them down.  The police then arrive, Karen Sisco among them.  Foley refuses to go peaceably and ends up shot.  The book ends, on a somewhat ironic note, with Karen talking to her dad about Foley.

The book, though centered on crime, deals with greater themes of fate and love.  Some things simply aren’t meant to be any more than a taste in this life.  And other things are simply inescapable.  We may make our own choices, but those choices have consequences which will eventually seal our fates.

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