Up until recently, Melissa Pimentel was an author of romance novels. Then, Pimentel wrote a thriller, and it was so different from anything she had published before that she needed a new name.
Thus, Jessica Barry was born — and with her, one of the first great novels of the year. Freefall, published on Jan.8 in the US, has been billed as a debut, though it's not exactly one — it's Barry's first novel, but Pimentel has four books to her name on Amazon. Regardless, this first thriller is a chance for Pimentel/Barry to demonstrate her many strengths as a writer: an eye for detail, an ear for voices, and that little extra bit of soul — a desire to show readers something about our world and those who inhabit it, a quality that breathes life into every word.
Allison, her protagonist, has all the hallmarks of a Knoll heroine — one of many flourishes that bring to mind Knoll’s writing.
We meet Allison when she emerges from the wreckage of her fiancé’s aircraft in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. There is a man near her — his face is missing. Her body is bruised, her rations almost non-existent. Yet Allison reminds herself to move, breathe and walk. She has a plan, which takes her trekking in the Rockies in a pair of leggings, a sports bra and a T-shirt, with four Luna bars and a bag of mixed nuts in her bag. Allison walks, sleeps and somehow survives in the Colorado mountains. Anyone in her situation would be desperate for help, but Allison doesn’t want to be found. There are men looking for her, and they want her dead.
It takes a skilled novelist to straddle the practicality of being lost in the mountains and the emotional experience of losing oneself. Barry pulls it off beautifully. Her vivid writing means we feel Allison’s pain, her hunger, and her relief whenever she does eat some food.
There is something metaphorical about Allison’s quest to make it out of the Rocky Mountains alive. The precariousness of her situation causes her to reconsider the way she has led her life thus far.
The resolution is full of satisfying twists. The suspense works because it’s intricately tied to Allison’s emotional journey. The ending is unexpected but doesn’t seem far-fetched, mainly because Barry’s masterful writing forces us to suspend our disbelief.
Barry has delivered a scintillating debut.A thrilling second career awaits.
For more than 40 years, Barry Lopez has been one of our great writers on the environment and the human relationship to it. He makes connections you might never have thought of before.
Spring, the third instalment in Ali Smith’s series of novels about modern Britain, bursts with the bruised hope of redemption.
Kayla Alexander loved to draw since she was a child, when she was inspired by a patient teacher.
Capaldi made his UAE debut at the Amphitheatre, with international hits that included ‘Someone You Loved.’ The song clocked 75 million hits on YouTube.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos got a whiff of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan's trademark wit at an interaction in Mumbai on Thursday.
Something ominous happens in the opening pages of “How Quickly She Disappears” and it’s not immediately clear whether it’s the good kind of ominous.