Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book review: Saving Laura by Jim Satterfield

If you are, like me, on the lookout for a fresh voice in the thriller genre, clear out your schedule for a few days and pick up a copy of Jim Satterfield’s Saving Laura. Set in Wyoming and Colorado—a region Satterfield knows like his backyard—Saving Laura is the tale of a young man willing to risk everything to save the girl he loves from an unscrupulous drug dealer. It is a common theme, yes, but Satterfield does it with uncommon style: in the smooth and easy prose that flows like the waters of the Roaring Fork River, in the characters as real as the Rockies themselves, and in the use of the setting—described beautifully—as a character unto itself. So well does Satterfield know the terrain and understand its denizens, that the reader is much like a movie-goer, watching the story unfold amid the snow-tinged peaks and aspen-covered hills.

But there is more to Saving Laura than beautiful scenery, much more. In classic thriller fashion, there is never really any doubt as to how the story will end, but it is the getting there that drives the story, the reader’s desire to see how it all goes down. It is a testament to Satterfield’s ability to create sympathetic characters that we yearn to see the protagonist (twenty-one-year-old Lee Shelby) succeed despite watching him commit grand larceny in the opening scene. We allow it because we understand Shelby is desperate to save Laura from cocaine addiction and from the man who enabled her addiction, an easy-to-hate drug peddler that Satterfield draws up in grand fashion.

But the author’s talent for characterization is perhaps best seen in the many supporting characters: in the renegade mountain dweller who helps Shelby escape from the police who are looking for him for a murder he didn’t commit; in the beautiful and flawed Laura for whom Shelby is willing to risk his life; and in the maverick author (a doppleganger of Satterfield himself?) who comes to Shelby’s aid when he needs it most.

So, pull up a beach chair, brew up a large pitcher of iced tea or mix a Tanqueray and Tonic (don’t forget the lime so you can count it as a fruit serving), and crack open a copy of Saving Laura by Jim Satterfield. Just make sure the lawn is already mowed!