Review of Flash Bang, by Kellen Burden

Flash BangOver a year ago, I downloaded Kellen Burden‘s Flash Bang from the Amazon free list.

Description from Goodreads:
Sebastian Parks is drowning in a flood of his own creation. Dishonorably discharged from the Army, he’s wracked with night terrors and an anger that he can’t abate. Unemployable and uninterested in anything resembling a normal job, Parks makes his living in fugitive apprehension, finding wanted felons on Facebook and thumping them into custody with his ex-military buddies John Harkin and Eric “Etch” Echevarria. When the body of a teenage Muslim boy is found in front of a downtown Denver nightclub Parks, Harkin and Etch are called on to do what they do best: Find bad men and make them pay.

Wow, color me impressed! I went into this book with very few expectations, but I sure didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Parks is such an incredibly compelling character. He’s funny in a sarcastic, ironic, somewhat desperately sad sort of way. You really feel him and hope ’till the end for his better tomorrow. The book is told from his first person point of view and the narrative is definitely indicative of his mental headspace. Here is an example (pulled pretty much at random):

When we’re done eating, she sighs, a very satisfied, pleasant sound. I don’t remember the last time I sighed because I was content, and there’s something about the way she does it that makes me hope for myself.
Says: “Okay. So, to business.”
And I nod, say: “I really appreciate you doing this for me.”
Says: “Tarik’s geography teacher didn’t have a lot to say about him.

Notice the use of Say (him)and Says (the other person in a conversation). This is how a lot of the book is written and it takes a little while to get used to. It’s not technically proper and it’s undeniably clipped, but stylistically, for a strong, damaged, silent-type, ex-CID soldier character it works perfectly.

And the man is damaged. He’s a bit of an anti-hero. Though not named, he’s obviously suffering some PTSD issues and struggling with guilt and feeeeeelllings. His two partners are fairing better, but they are all pretty much propping each-other up to one extent or another. (And I do love finding this in a book.)

There are a couple running…not gags, so much, but funnies that pop up more than once. My favorite being the “He said ‘Oh’…not like…but like someone asked who stared in Die Hard and you said Bruce Willis.” It’s dryly funny in context, believe me. I think I highlighted about half the book just because I found so many of the passages memorable for one reason or another—humor or poignancy or just blatant, unexpected honesty.

This book was a surprise hit for me. It’s gritty, and violent, and darkly noir-like. I found myself telling my husband about it in the exact same manner our seven-year-old reports the grand adventured of Phineas and Ferb at the dinner table. Though it’s only Jan. 4, I wouldn’t be surprised to find I finish the year with this still in my top 5 reads of 2015.

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