Monday, March 12, 2018

Aubrey Hamilton Reviews: It Happened at Two in the Morning by Alan Hruska

It Happened at Two in the Morning by Alan Hruska (Prospect Park Books, 2017) is an engaging thriller that careens through its pages from beginning to end. Tom Weldon is walking home in the city that never sleeps at 2:00 in the morning after finishing a legal brief for his boss. In front of an office building he witnesses a group of masked felons shooting a well-dressed man and kidnapping a young woman. He jumps into the fray only to be knocked unconscious and kidnapped too. The young woman is Elena Riles, youngest daughter of Robertson Riles, the incredibly wealthy CEO of Riles Whitney & Co., the man who was killed.

The two find their way too easily out of their makeshift prison in rural Pennsylvania into a town where they learn from news outlets that Elena is believed to be her father’s murderer and Tom to be her accomplice. They are the subjects of a nationwide manhunt. Despite having never met, Tom’s cell phone records have been altered to show multiple phone calls to Elena. Tom knows that a frame-up that thorough has been established by someone with considerable power. Once found, they will both be jailed with no hope of parole, so they must dodge the police to keep their freedom in order to search for the real killers.

Tom calls in his friends for help and begins to piece the back story together. Elena’s father was immersed in an ugly corporate takeover battle, which appears to have been the motive for the murder. The killers grow impatient with the authorities and decide if Elena and Tom are dead, the investigation will be closed. The couple is pursued from place to place, just escaping the killers by a hair more than once.

This book has a couple of my favorite plot devices. First is the “just walking down the street minding my own business when havoc erupts” method to pull the protagonist into the lives of people he doesn’t know and wouldn’t know in the normal scheme of things. Lee Child used the same technique in his second Reacher adventure. Then there’s “fugitive fleeing from the police with no money and no resources.”  Just how this pair generates living expenses, since using their credit cards will draw attention to their location, is creative and diverting, even if it isn’t terribly realistic.

The emphasis here is on action, not character development or even logic. One or two of the characters disappear without explanation toward the end of the book, for instance. (Hruska writes for films and it shows.) How Tom is cleared to pursue the killers is not credible at all. A reader unfamiliar with the mechanics of corporate takeovers will miss some of the key plot points. Overall, though, a good entertaining read that kept my attention from start to finish.

·                     Paperback: 312 pages
·                     Publisher: Prospect Park Books (November 14, 2017)
·                     Language: English
·                     ISBN-10: 1945551178
·                     ISBN-13: 978-1945551178

Aubrey Hamilton © 2018
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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