Book Review: Susceptible by Brett Wallach

*I received a complimentary copy of this book, and I’m leaving a voluntary review*

*possible spoilers warning as always*

Plot: Private Investigator, Phil Allman, is hired to check up on a man who’s suicidal. After meeting the man, and concluding he isn’t suicidal, Phil’s investigation is turned upside down when the man dies the next day – by suicide.

Phil carries on investigation, though the case seems clear cut and is closed by the police. The main suspects are the man’s sister and ex-wife, a hypothesis which is further strengthened when a friend of Phil’s, who’s family also are linked to the sister and ex-wife of the first man, wound up dead. By suicide. And then Phil realizes the insurance payouts are enormous. Chasing the money, Phil is met with a dilemma. Solve the case, or cash in.

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I’ve read one other book by Brett. I found it weirdly unique, and loved it. It was also a Phil Allman novel, and this second one didn’t let me down. Phil is a good guy. An ex-cop turned P.I. He’s divorced and they have a child together. His life is pretty normal, and it has it’s ups and downs, like everyone’s.

The book is written in first-person, present tense, but it’s also reflecting on the past in a way. There’s probably a proper term for this, which I don’t know, but we’re often told by Phil how things used to be, “back then”, before SATNAVs, smart phones, and the internet. I like it, it’s historic in a sense, looking back at when Phil was in his mid-30’s, trying to solve this case. I am never able to decide whether or not I like first-person novels, but in this book it works great, and we learn a lot about Phil this way. What music he likes, what he thinks about people, the things he does,  and his daughter. Phil tells us his story as it’s going on, and this is a book where you can throw “show, don’t tell” straight out the window. I like being told stories.

Phil’s a normal guy, which is one of the reasons I love reading about him. He’s one of the good ones, as I mentioned, but that doesn’t mean he’s not susceptible to all the wordly pleasures, needs and wants all of us possess. He has no quarrel with doing things that benefit him, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. No harm no foul, right? Which is why this book is so great.

At first I thought I had it all figured out. Seemed clear cut, the mystery wasn’t so much of a mystery after all. I was just wondering how long it was going to take Phil to figure it out. But then he did – and it turned the whole story on it’s head. Phil figured out what I did, just as easily. But it doesn’t end there. This is where Phil’s, should I say amoral, humanity comes into play. In a big way.

But of course, all’s not well that ends well, because the past comes back to haunt Phil. Threats to him and his family send him out to dig up old wounds, in a hurry none the less. Trying to do the right thing, he’s not quite able, ending up having to defend everything he holds dear.

 

Reading about Phil was just as good this time as it was the last, I recognize things in him, understand where he’s coming from, and sit on the edge of my seat, just hoping he’ll put it all right by the end. This is why Brett’s books are so great – because he writes about real, true people, both good and bad, who you can emphatize with, feel sorry for, and root for.

If you’re looking for an exciting, down to earth read about a P.I. trying to make the best of it all, I highly recommend this.

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