If there was a measure of the ratio of surprises to a number of pages, Paid In Full by Mark Newman would rank very favorably. Not only were there a lot of surprises, they were paradigm shifts. A character development would be unfolding interestingly but almost predictably and then out of the blue the character would make a 90-degree shift. Characters to be pitied became malevolent, unsavory characters. Evil bad folks, along with the lines of torturers, would just give up and leave witnesses alive. Not that they would go unpunished, but they didn’t act in ways that would assure they would not get caught. This novel is a short story of 149 pages and was one I want to keep so I paid the USD 0.99 Amazon price.
Garrett was given a death sentence by his doctor. When would he die? Without treatment, he has from three weeks to six months, with treatment six months to a year. It is time to play the game used in English language classes to provoke questions. Given a finite time to live and the knowledge of how much time you have, what will you do? Garrett had a job as a corporate analyst which he never liked. Colleagues and bosses didn’t follow his suggestions and then blamed him when failures he had warned about occurred. We can guess what may happen there. Still, in this novel, the way it plays out is a surprise.
There is the matter of what to do about Maria, his wife. She could at least have stayed around for the diagnosis. Her absence was evidenced by the “Dear John” letter she had left. But he still wanted to know where she had gone. He, along with the reader, will be surprised.
Treatment for what Garrett has, treatment for almost any illness, presumes an alcohol-free regimen. And Garrett had given up drinking. But why shouldn’t he do it now as he has nothing, and no one left to lose? After his diagnosis, Garett stopped in a bar that was his father’s favorite. Not that Garett liked his father, the opposite was true, but the brands of alcohol served were familiar. When a couple of neighborhood toughs came in to extort money from an attractive bartender, Garrett found he did not mind exercising long dormant fighting skills to defend the attractive employee. Might he have lost the fight? Sure, but he didn’t care. That could not be said for the boss of the low-level collector thugs. There would be more fights in Garrett’s future.
After physical violence in the bar and physical violence in the workplace, there was a possibility of police involvement. Garrett didn’t care but there was a case where he should have cared. His wife was receiving personal care from a police officer, care that she had invited and led to her writing the letter leading to her abandonment of Garrett. He did not see that coming. The separation, maybe, but not with a cop.
All these conflicts take place in an environment of alcoholic uncertainty as well as the possibility of a mind-distorting breakdown. This story is an excellent showcase for Newman’s writing talent and should serve the author’s promotion of his other novels well. I will look for more novels by Mark Newman.