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Michael Gruber

The Return

Michael Gruber The Return
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Biographical note:

Michael Gruber is the author of The Good Son, The Book of Air and Shadows, and The Forgery of Venus. He has a PhD in marine sciences and began freelance writing while working in Washington D.C., as a policy analyst and speech writer. Since 1990, he has been a full-time writer. He is married and lives in Seattle, Washington.

Excerpt from book:

1

Mexico.

This was Marder’s first thought when the doctor explained what the shadow on the screen meant, what the tests implied. Mexico meant unfinished business, put off for years, nearly forgotten, until this unexpected deadline: now or never. That was the decent part; the cowardly part was the terror of explanation, of seeing the faces of his friends and family wear that look, the one that said, You’re dying and I’m not and as much as I care for you I can’t treat you like a real person anymore. He could see this very look in the doctor’s face now, presaging all the others to come. Gergen was a good guy, a fine GP; Marder had been seeing him for years, the annual checkup. Something of a joke this, for Marder was hale as a bear, arteries like the bore of a Mossberg 12-gauge, all the numbers in the right zones, remarkable for a man in his fifties. They had a good relationship; if not quite pals, they’d always joked through the exams, the same jokes. Marder always said, “Tell me you love me first,” as the doctor slipped the greased, rubbered finger up toward the perfectly normal prostate.

And other humorous repartee before and during: current events, sports, but mainly books. Marder was a book editor of some reputation—he’d been editor in chief of a major house before turning freelance some years back. Gergen fancied himself a literary fellow, and Marder usually remembered to bring along the latest thing he’d worked on, a history, a biography; today it had been one explaining the origins of the financial crisis. That was his editorial specialty, doorstops dense as nougat that explained our terrifying new world.

Gergen was explaining Marder’s own new world now. The thing was deep in the brain, immune from surgical intervention, immune even from the clever methods by which a tube could be passed up the arterial pathways to fix the deadly little bubble. When Gergen finished, Marder asked the usual question and got the usual answer: impossible to tell. It could stop growing, which occasionally happened, for reasons unknown; the most likely scenario was leakage, stroking out, the hideous decline, stretched out over months or years; or it could just pop, in which case, curtains, and the next world. Marder had believed in the next world all his life, more or less, and did not entirely dread the journey, but lingering—in paralysis, helplessness, idiocy—filled him with horror.

They shook hands solemnly when Marder was dressed and ready to leave. Gergen said he was sorry, and Marder could tell he meant it but also that he was glad to see him go. Doctors are irritated by those beyond help; Marder knew the feeling—he’d worked with any number of authors who couldn’t write and wouldn’t learn. Irritating: death, like lack of talent, an embarrassment to be avoided.

*   *   *

Marder left the doctor’s office and walked toward Union Square, through the thronged streets, weaving in the practiced New Yorker’s way through all the people who were going to outlive him, who would be in their lives after he was not. He found that this knowledge did not depress him. His step was light; he cast his eye almost benevolently at the passing faces, so many of them bearing the grim mask of the New Yorker, guarded, intent on the next deal or destination. The world seemed sharper than it had when he entered the office just a few hours ago, as if

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Air and Shadows, the story of one man’s fearless quest for revenge among some of the world’s most dangerous criminals

Lauded as his #1 favorite book of the year, Stephen King advised President Obama, in the pages of Entertainment Weekly, to pick up Michael Gruber’s previous book, The Good Son. With an unforgettable hero, The Return is as exciting and provocative as Gruber’s best work.

The real Richard Marder would shock his acquaintances, if they ever met him. Even his wife, long dead, didn’t know the real man behind the calm, cultured mask he presents to the world. Only an old army buddy from Vietnam, Patrick Skelly, knows what Marder is capable of. Then a shattering piece of news awakens Marder’s buried desire for vengeance, and with nothing left to lose, he sets off to punish the people whose actions, years earlier, changed his life. Uninvited, Skelly shows up and together the two of them raise the stakes far beyond anything Marder could have envisioned.

As Marder and Skelly head toward an apocalypse of their own making, Marder learns that good motives and sense of justice can’t always protect the people a man loves. A range of fearsomely real characters, from a brutally violent crime lord to a daringly courageous young woman, a roller-coaster of twists and turns, and a shattering exploration of what constitutes morality in the face of evil, Michael Gruber has once more proven that he is “a gifted and natural storyteller” (Chicago Tribune) and shows why he has been called “the Stephen King of crime writing” (The Denver Post).

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