There’s nothing more peaceful than a 3 A.M. jog on an ocean boardwalk with waves lapping in the distance and no one around—or is there? In Runner, the debut novel in Patrick Lee’s new thriller series, retired special forces op Sam Dryden finds he’s not jogging alone but running for his life, along with a young stranger—an 11-year-old girl who’s fleeing from some smart, devious pursuers equipped with heavy-duty hardware including thermal imaging equipment, hovering helicopters and satellite access. Who are these guys? And what’s with the extensive dragnet? And why are they after an innocent child?
These are the question that readers find answers to, page by page, as Dryden employs all his former tactical knowledge to elude the forces arrayed against him and his small charge. How coincidental that he has all that special training—or is it?
It turns out that young Rachel poses a lot more danger than most 11-year-olds, and Dryden has to scramble to keep up with all the revelations about her special past and her amazing, wide-reaching capabilities. Right now Rachel can’t remember much more than her own name, but her memory is slowly returning, and with it her potential to affect others’ lives. Not only can Rachel read minds, but she has the ability to influence them. There are big players, corporate and governmental, involved in the race to get their hands on the power she possesses.
Runner is packed with scary, fast-moving action scenes, and it moves at breakneck pace as Dryden and Rachel parachute from high-rise buildings, hole up under a seaside boardwalk, play dodge-’em on a freeway and race across Utah’s high country to a deserted lake bed—deserted, that is, except for an odd, steel-framed cell tower rising from the emptiness.
All the repetitive action shots, shoot-outs, treachery, about-faces and devious characters threaten to turn Runner into just another run-of-the-mill thriller. It has “screenplay” written all over it, and as action shot turns into action shot, the story loses some of its punch as we wait for the next predictable take.
The good news, however, lies in the author’s skill in weaving this high-tech thriller. Runner pushes at the edges of science fiction and makes an outlandish and frightening scenario seem plausible—even probable—given the advancements in genetic knowledge and manipulation that are right on our human horizon.