Off The Well-Lit Path

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 14 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

I finally got around to reading this book, my first 'sourced' thru NetGalley. I knew nothing about the author. To be fair it's a fast-paced, engaging, modern horror story about losing a child. I found the narrative about the underworld in Mexico credible, the corruption as it was portrayed aligned with what I perceive to be the situation in Mexico, and I suppose a reference point for this book would be the movie 'Man on Fire'. I felt schoes of the Jack Reacher/Lee Child series in the book, but perhaps not as rounded a plot and resolution. A good holiday read, especially if you are not concerned by violence.
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This is a very unsettling noir mystery located in modern day Mexico along a most dangerous stretch of highway in the states of Sinaloa and Sonora. Bad things happen immediately when Bob Rugg, and his young teen-aged daughter, is hijacked by bad men who have the worst of intentions. The family was going on what turns out to be a very ill advised trip of fun and fishing.  What was the Dad thinking? The relentless action goes from one horror to another, as a severely injured Rugg seeks to find his daughter and the perpetrators. Help is not forthcoming from either inept Americans or corrupt Mexican officials. Kindness is a rare commodity. 

But the author does something unusual with this bleak tale. A parallel narrative is shown through the eyes of one of the youngest thug wannabes. He believes he has no path but to join and become a member of this vicious gang. Rayo, in spite of his criminality, somehow comes off as a more human character. 

The reader goes on hoping for redemption yet fearing the worst. For readers who want a thriller laced with violence and anxiety….this is it! Recommended. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book.
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This book starts with the main character behaving like an idiot, first by bringing his young daughter to Mexico for a fishing trip, and then giving up without a fight when they are stopped by a smaller car. After barely surviving, he finally starts fighting back.
Unfortunately, I read the rest of the book, and it's mainly violence with no purpose or ending.
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Welcome to the literary (and geographic) territory of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, or anything by Don Winslow. I know, I know -- comparing M.S. Holm to these two writers is high praise, indeed, but it's entirely warranted.

Or, for anyone who loved Elmore Leonard for his gritty noir and beautifully-written prose, here is someone who's carrying on the tradition. The suspense is keen, the cultural insights are brilliant, the language is deceptively simple.

Holm has created memorable characters in Bob Rugg, the American tourist who is attacked by a team of Mexican highway carjacker-murderers south of Nogales (he is left for dead and is daughter is abducted), and Rayo, the youngest member of the gang of bandidos (for whom the brutality of the attack on Bob and his daughter is an everyday occurrence.) 

The story alternates between the viewpoints of Bob and Rayo. Holm builds in the reader a heartbreaking empathy for both these characters.

This was a near-perfect book. Thanks to NetGalley for an advance readers copy.
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Travelling to Mexico, it suggests you read this before you go, but am not so sure!   A Dad travelling with his only teenage daughter is carjacked on an isolated highway by El Sin and his gang.  He is shot and beaten and left for dead,.  His daughter is taken to be used as a whore in the brothels.   Rugg, the Dad, while being carried away to the morgue is recognized as being just alive.  He struggles to live, and fights all the way in the hope he is able to rescue his daughter.  He leaves the hospital, stealing crutches, as part of his leg has been amputee, before the doctors release him.   Meanwhile there is a young lad with a limp taken off the streets by El Sin  that relates the life of a criminal.  He was there when the ‘gringo’s were highjacked.   A fascinating tale, well written, but you have to be prepared for the torturous parts.  Having travelled to Mexico numerous times with no issues, I think I was able to look at the story from a different angle.
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Such a great read  to get immersed in ..  Great detail and engaging characters. Off the Well Lit Path is a very interesting story
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Amazingly suspenseful read! OFF THE WELL-LIT PATH was a great title, along with a good strong beginning, which helped this story to take off like a shot. 
What would you do? How would you survive if you were left in a desert to die, with no way to get away from the hot, burning sand during the day, and the cold ground, along with the animals at night. That is just what Rugg was left to do, to try to survive or die. No water, no food, no weapons of any kind? They even took his transporation.  
Along with anger and hatred Rugg was left with two important points. One, the love of his daughter, which was all he had. And two, determination to get to her before it was too late. But how? He did not know yet.  But he would get even with those who took his daughter, or die trying. But before he could think or do anything else, they told him to run, then shot him three times and left him lying on the desert floor, not moving. Was he unconscious? Or was he already dead?
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Rating 
4.5/5 I rounded up on the star chart. 

At no point in my life did I think I would enjoy a book about human trafficking, the Mexican gangs and the act of revenge, but here I am raving about this book. 

Holm took me on a wild adventure through the eyes of two very different men: 
Rugg - a father who will risk everything to save his daughter who was abducted right in front of him.  Left for dead after the abduction Rugg's dedication to saving his daughter is both admirable and insane.   
Speedy - a young man who works for the Mexican Gang who took part in abducting Rugg's young daughter.  

With alternative points of view the reader will be taken on a roller coaster ride full of emotions praying for the safety of Rose (Rugg's daughter) and rooting for the safety of Speedy even though they are at opposite ends of the story.  

My only hold back from giving this book a 5/5 was the fact that I had to spend some time with Google Translate when it came to some of the dialogue.  The good news is that I learned some Spanish curse words.  

Thank you Holm for taking me on a trip Off the Well-Lit Path I don't think I'll be visiting Mexico for a long time.

Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in return for a unbiased review!
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