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Audie Palmer has been in prison for ten years for an armed robbery that went wrong. Although two of the gang died and Audie was arrested, the stolen $7 million has never been found. Since Audie's brother is suspected of being the fourth gang member, everyone assumes he's living a life of luxury somewhere and that Audie will get his share when he gets out. So why would Audie suddenly choose to escape, just one day before he's due to be released? It seems he has made a promise that he must keep - but there are people who want to stop him. So not only is Audie running from the law, he's in a race to fulfil his mission before he loses his life...

I've been enjoying working my way through Michael Robotham's Joe O'Loughlin series recently, so grabbed the opportunity to read this new standalone novel. From the moment Audie escapes right at the beginning, the plot begins to twist and turn. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the reader is very much on Audie's side - we're not sure why he ended up in jail, but we're soon convinced that he's an honourable man and his intentions must be good. As we follow him on his present-day mission, we gradually find out about his past - the brother whose drug abuse and criminality brought Audie under suspicion more than once, the crime lord he ended up working for, the girl he fell in love with. And it gradually becomes clear that these past events are in some way connected to the present.

The book is told mostly in the present tense but in the third person and, although Audie's is the main viewpoint, we also see through the eyes of Desiree, one of the FBI agents on the case, and Moss, a former prison-mate of Audie's. Desiree has had the original robbery on her books as a cold case, but when Audie escapes her boss takes over the investigation and seems to want to keep Desiree out. But the diminutive Desiree is stubborn and she's determined to be in on it, especially since she's not sure things are quite what they seem on the surface. Moss is a great character - inside for life on the three strikes rule, he suddenly finds himself freed on condition that he hunts Audie down. But will Moss put his chance of freedom above his friendship for Audie? Even he doesn't seem too sure...

As always with Robotham, the characterisation is very strong. Audie himself might be just a shade too perfect to be fully credible, but that's more than compensated for by the characters of Moss and Desiree, both of whom come over as wholly believable and likeable. It takes a while for us to suspect who the baddies are but, when we do, boy, are they bad! And if Audie wants to keep the promise that he made ten years earlier, he has to be running towards the baddies rather than away...

This is a fast-paced rollercoaster of a thriller that reminded me of Harlan Coben at his best (and also just a bit of the Shawshank Redemption). Definitely movie material - has it been snapped up yet, I wonder? Loads of action, strong characters, great writing, a twisty plot and an explosive ending - this is the thriller of the year for me so far. Highly recommended, either for existing fans of the O'Loughlin series or as a great way for new readers to sample Robotham's work.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group UK.
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Audie Palmer escapes prison the day before he is due to be released. Palmer has spent ten years in prison for an armed robbery in which four people were killed, including two members of his gang. The $7 million stolen during the robbery has never been recovered, and Palmer has never revealed its location despite years of beatings and threats. His (missing) brother is suspected of being a gang member, and (if he is) it seems logical to conclude that he has the money and that Audie will be in touch. Once Audie is on the run, a number of different people are trying to find him, including the FBI, and his former cellmate Moss Webster who is freed to try to track him down. Some hope that he will lead them to the money; most are wondering why he chose to escape the day before he would have been released.

‘You want to know why he escaped, but that’s the wrong question. You should be asking why he didn’t do it sooner.’

Audie Palmer has his own reasons for escaping. These gradually become clear to the reader as the story unfolds. With so many people in pursuit, it seems unlikely that Audie will survive. Along the way he forms some fleeting friendships, some of which unfortunately end in death as those pursuing Audie are not concerned about collateral damage.

‘There are moments in life when important choices have to be made. If we’re lucky we get to make them, but more often they’re made for us.’

This is a fast-paced story which I could not put down. The characters are well developed and believable, the setting realistic. While the story is mostly from Audie’s viewpoint, we also see some aspects from Moss’s perspective, and from one of the FBI agents involved.

This is a standalone novel: one which Michael Robotham (according to his website) has been considering for over twenty years. It’s one of the best crime thrillers I have read this year.

‘Odds don’t change because a coin has landed on the same side a dozen times or more.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Audie Palmer has spent ten years in jail when he escapes from prison, without telling anyone of his plans. He was sentenced after a robbery on an armoured truck led to four deaths, Audie himself horribly injured, one man – Audie’s brother –missing and seven million dollars unaccounted for. .. Through all of the ten years Audie has spent in prison he has suffered threats, beatings and countless attempts on his life by people hoping to get their hands on the money. So, with his jail term almost over, his actions make no sense. Why would a man about to be released escape from prison a day early when, if caught, he could face another, harsher sentence?

During his time in prison, Audie’s closest friend has been Moss Webster. Now Moss finds himself sent to locate – and betray – his friend. Also on Audie’s trail is Special Agent Desiree Furness, while Sheriff Ryan Valdez (the man who nearly killed Audie after the robbery), of Dreyfus County, also offers to help with the search. During this fast paced, well plotted and exciting thriller, we are taken through Audie’s life and discover what happened ten years ago, what Audie hopes to accomplish, what happened to the money and why so many people want him dead?

I really enjoyed this novel, peopled with sympathetic main characters and which did not let down the pace from start to finish. This really is a roller coaster ride in every sense of the world and yet the author effortlessly holds together all the different strands of the plot; both past and present. If you enjoy really well written thrillers, then you will certainly enjoy this. I have never read anything by this author before, but as this is a stand-alone novel it is a great introduction to his work and I will certainly be reading more by him in the future. Lastly, I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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3.5 stars.

I kept reading this one, intrigued. But having recently read The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair (on the surface, very different to Robotham's novel), the twists and conspiracies of that measured up in my eyes to be smarter and better thought through.

This isn't bad though, not at all. What a great premise for a start - a man put in prison for robbery and murder, about to be released, escapes the NIGHT BEFORE he is to be let go. WHY?! The money from the heist was never recovered,,,

Then his former cellmate finds himself released under dubious circumstances, told to find Audie, the missing prisoner. He knows something isn't right, but what? Moss and Audie both narrate segments, along with Desiree, a great 'little' character (speaking in height terms here, not demeaningly), she's spunky and could do with material devoted to her alone. Exceptionally short, she's had to push hard to succeed, and she is bright enough to realise that things don't add up with Aude's original conviction. Will Moss or Desiree turn up anything that shows Audie isn't what he is painted to be?

I never quite felt I understood everything that was going on, but did enjoy the surprises along the way. Audie is a little too saintly though (almost daily beatings in prison for ten years and he keeps his cool?!), and Desiree doesn't get much more do in in the second half than a few revelation scenes and a last-minute dash to the final confrontation moment. She could have been much more a part of it.

Some great minor characters, some of whom get despatched unexpectedly easily. Audie's backstory, when it finally comes, is a good one, very revealing and sad.

This was my first Robotham. I'm not normally much of a thriller/conspiracy reader, and won't read this genre much more often, but it makes a change from my usual reads and I'm glad to have tried a new author.
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Life Or Death kicks off with a perfect poser: why would you escape from prison one day before being released? The mystery manhunt which follows maintains that level of intrigue and suspense, gradually untangling the events which pushed Audie Palmer into going over the wall when 24 hours later he would’ve been a free man.

Using flashbacks to explain Audie’s present predicament by revealing the events which led up to the failed security van heist and his incarceration, keeps the core mystery shrouded in suspense and pushes the pace along. Although the author embellishes the plot with colourful incidental characters, they’re deftly drawn in a few paragraphs so the text isn’t saturated in extended, irrelevant history. The key figures essential to the plot are all a little bit quirky, easily recognisable as genre players, but each unusual enough to capture the attention.
There's more thoughts on the plot and characters over at
At its heart, Life Or Death is an old-fashioned love story, a book about manning up and doing the right thing. In the telling, it builds a picture of small-scale crime, organised gangsters, corrupt cops and the politicians they serve – and shows how many otherwise innocent lives are twisted first in the commission of a murderous conspiracy, and then in keeping it quiet. No matter what the cost.
The author has an easy-going style; the action flips between several characters’ perspectives and different times. There’s enough detail to push the plot along but no so much that you think you wandered into a history class by mistake. There are several tense moments when you genuinely don't know how a stand-off is going to unfold; when all seems lost (but the author has a goodly number of credible tricks up his sleeve).

In short, an engaging mystery with a solid moral centre. A perfect book for the beach.
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If you enjoyed the movies ‘The Fugitive’ and ‘US Marshals’ then you should certainly enjoy this book. Here we meet Audie Palmer, who, on the day before his release escapes from the penitentiary. But what would drive a man to escape prison when he only has another day to go, and upon capture could face ending up doing more time in prison than he already has?

This story, which goes back to the past in flashbacks and then into the present gives us a compelling and tautly suspenseful tale. Audie was serving time for his supposed participation in the violent robbery of an armoured truck, but was he really one of the criminals? As you read this story things slowly start falling into place, although chances are you will already be one step ahead. With more than just the official sources looking for Audie there seem to be others as we find out why Audie had to escape prison before his time out was due.

Taking in corruption, politics and violence this tale also shows us the power of love, and what friendship and loyalty really means. But for Audie it could all be useless unless others believe him and in him, especially one diminutive FBI agent, Desiree Furness. With others looking for the re-capture or death of Audie, Desiree starts to realise that there is a web of corruption that leads quite high up that surrounds the case of Audie Palmer.

An action packed tale that is fast paced and full of intrigue and suspense this is really something that grabs hold of you and holds your attention to the last page. This would make a great film and perhaps one day we may have one, but for the moment at least this is a thriller that is well worth reading.

I was kindly provided with a review copy of this by the publisher via NetGalley.
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on 16 July 2015
This is an excellent thriller set mainly in Texas. You can feel the heat and the fear created by this author's excellent and powerful writing which makes the tale feel authentic. The hook is "Why would a convict escape the day before they are to be released?" and it works very well. The pace is very good and kept me gripped making it very hard to put this down. I did enjoy the main characters a lot and found them gritty and believable. The story unfolded well for me gradually revealed aspects of the stories that were far from apparent in the early stages of the book. In amongst the drama are some great pieces of humour from one or two of the main characters which as well as being credible made me smile. While Audie is an excellent character Moss and Desiree are very good foils.

If some aspects of the story stretch the credibility a little the quality of the writing is more than enough to compensate for that. I have read books by Michael Robotham before and enjoyed them however I would suggest that this is, to me, his best work so far and I for one would love to read another written so capably. I'd happily recommend this thriller to anyone.

Disclosure - I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
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on 25 November 2015
Life or Death is a crime novel by Australian author Michael Robotham. It won the 2015 Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award.
I was fortunte to meet Michael at a book event 16 July 2015 in Nottingham. I purchased this book for him to sign and apologised that I hadn't read anything of his at that time. He wrote "To Richard, This will be the first."
I think he was right.
Life or Death is a masterpiece of a pyschological thriller bringing muddled events into focus and making sense of a posed enigma: 'Why would a man escape from prison the day before his 10 year jail sentence was up?'
No praise is too high for this accomplished novel that grabs your interest from the outset, grips you around the throat taking your breathe away and if it hadn't already been known, would coin the term 'page-turner'.
Audie Palmer is a character not unlike Andy Dufresne and the book deserves as much attention as Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and if it is made well, Life or Death will be a terrific film.
One of the books to have read in 2015; and an author to follow and read in the coming days.
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on 20 October 2015
Grossly overrated novel. Nothing original here, rather blunt and slow pacing and a plot as vulnerable as a loose thread on a jumper. Surprised at the money back guarantee. After this I read The Kind Worth Killing, utterly superb.
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on 16 August 2015
A prisoner serving a ten-year stretch for a violent armed robbery decides to escape. Nothing earth shattering there, except he chooses to break out of prison just one day prior to his release. Why? That’s the intriguing premise of Michael Robotham’s fast-paced thriller Life and Death.

Robotham is an author I had not encountered before and I read this book with interest, always keen to discover a new thriller writer. He did not disappoint. This is a fast paced read, mostly told in third-person, present tense, which keeps the tension zinging along nicely. Past tense is fine of course, many authors choose to write in past tense, but you know then that the narrator must survive, at least up to the point where he can narrate the tale. While logically we know that the hero Audie Palmer is going to live at least until the end of the novel, this is a thriller after all with certain conventions to observe, the present tense gave an urgency, a sense of peril, that was hard to escape.

Many crime thrillers seem excessively violent these days, especially those of the ever-popular serial killer genre. While Life and Death certainly contains violence and doesn’t shy away from some description, on the whole it doesn’t fall for these easy tropes; and whilst it’s a heist novel of sorts I found it refreshingly original in places. The characterisation is good, albeit Audie seems a little too Zen at times, and the plotting was spot on.

If I have one criticism it’s that it was never really resolved to my satisfaction why he needed to escape at all. Without giving away spoilers, the main character feels he has to avoid being killed by the bad guys upon his release. But I found this lacked credibility. Surely they wouldn’t kill him as soon as he stepped out of the gates, prisons being surrounded by CCTV after all. Surely it would have been easier to try and lose them when they inevitably followed him upon his release? But this is a minor quibble with an otherwise faultless
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