The Identity Man Review
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Some thrillers are action-packed and exciting; others are what I’ll call Lobster Boil Thrillers. They start out at a relaxed pace—so relaxed that they might even seem a little dull. But as you read, the temperature rises gradually. In fact, you might not even notice what’s going on until, suddenly, you’ll realize that you’re in the midst of a boiling pot of suspense—and there’s no turning back. Andrew Klavan’s The Identity Man is definitely a Lobster Boil Thriller—a thought-provoking story that sneaks up on you until it all comes together in a bubbling, boiling climax.

John Shannon has been in and out of jail for most of his life. Though he’d like to go straight—especially since his next arrest will put him away for a long, long time—he just can’t seem to stop taking new jobs.

When his latest job goes horribly wrong, Shannon becomes a wanted man, and he’s forced to go on the run. While he’s hiding out in a cemetery, he gets a message from someone who wants to help. The man calls himself the “identity man”—and, before Shannon realizes what’s happened, he’s been given a new face, a new name, and a new life. He settles into life as a carpenter in a city that’s been ravaged by flood, seeing it as his chance to start over—and to do it right this time.

Elsewhere in the city, Lt. Brick Ramsey patrols the streets, wondering how he’s gone from an honorable cop to a corrupt politician’s puppet. But when everything starts crumbling around him, he finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into corruption and desperation.

The Identity Man is a thoughtful, deliberate thriller—one with more internal, psychological conflict than car chases and shootouts. It isn’t a fast-paced, shoot-‘em-up kind of story. Instead, it takes a while to build—and, in the beginning, you’ll often wonder where it’s going (if anywhere). It seems like two separate stories about two completely unrelated characters. Still, it offers an interesting perspective on the same old characters—the crooked cop, the thief with a heart of gold—and you’ll soon find yourself caught up in their stories

The setting—a nameless place that sounds an awful lot like post-Katrina New Orleans—is grim and devastated, yet it makes the perfect backdrop for the characters’ stories. For Ramsey, it’s a dark, desolate, hopeless place, where it’s hard to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. For Shannon, it’s a place that’s starting over—just like he is. Though things seem pretty bleak, it has all kinds of new possibilities—and Shannon fully intends to take advantage of them.

You’ll feel for both characters—for Ramsey, who had every intention of being a good cop, and especially for Shannon, who’s trying to start over and make a new life for himself. The more you get to know them, the more you’ll see the similarities. Both are troubled, misguided men who made the wrong decisions in life—and now they have to choose in which direction their lives will go.

Once you finally start to get into the story, though, you’ll find out what’s really going on—and then the pace really starts to pick up. This isn’t just the story of some small-time crook who was given a second chance. It’s so much more than that—and the two men’s stories collide in a way that you won’t expect.

The Identity Man certainly gets off to a slow start—but don’t let that scare you away. When it all comes together, it’s a sharp and challenging story about crime, corruption, and second chances. Just stick with it—because once the lobster pot begins to boil, you’ll be glad you did.

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