My honest review of Blake Rudman’s “The Red Line”
One of the first concepts you learn as a writer, one of those things everyone keeps repeating to you as if it was a gospel, is the concept of target audience. Young people are the target audience of YA fantasy. Adult men are the target audience for action-packed thrillers, adult women for romance and erotica, and the list goes on.
To be honest, I’ve never thought too much about it to be true, because I don’t think I fit exactly the expectations of my target demographics when it comes to reading. I should value strong female leads and LGBTQ+ stories according to my “profile”, but as much as I fall in love with the occasional fictional strong woman, I always tend to consider the story rather than the characters when I have to pick a new read.
You probably already know that I have a soft spot for horror and murder mysteries, but what you may not be aware of is that there has been a moment in my life when I devoured action packed thrillers, one right after the other. As a teenager I read a great part of the Ken Follet and David Baldacci’s books (my parents were huge fans and they never refrained from buying a book), and nowadays I can still list “Absolute Power”, “Total Control”, “The Third Twin” and “Eye of the Needle” as four of my favorite books of all time.
As you can see, when I was asked to review “The Red Line” by Blake Rudman, I had no reason to say no. It clearly reminded me of those books (and movies) about world-scale threats being resolved by your typical upstanding cop or agent and their small and outpowered team. The kind of stories my dad used to label as “whatsamericanboy”, which I know means nothing, but you really should hear it pronounced by an Italian to understand why it lives in my mind rent free. It sounds something like “uazzammericann-a boy”, but funnier.
And yes, my dad and I kept reading and watching that stuff anyway, so please: US fellows, don’t take it as an offence. Recognizing the issues with the United States’ administrations urge to consider themselves the “sheriffs of the world” doesn’t prevent me to enjoy stories about international espionage, as you’ll see very shortly.
Enough with the apologies, please talk about that damn book
Story-wise, “The Red Line” was very much how I expected it to be, but there was also something more. It was the first time I remember reading the experience and induced paranoia of a few people not directly involved in the conspiracy or in fighting it. In many other books, it’s just briefly described as general paranoia. Blake Rudman, instead, applied it to a well-fleshed character with their insecurities in full display.
That character was so far away from me as it could be, and I don’t think I could ever think like them, but I really saw them and their struggle as I read on. My initial “But how is this person linked to the story, then?” was wiped out right away as the story progressed and saw how the character was used in “The Red Line”.
Speaking of the main characters, instead, I have to say I liked them all, even though I could not connect very much with Farbod.
Mitch, too, was a tough one to love. It was because of, you guessed it, his uazzammericann-a boy attitude in full display, but there were moments in the story where you could actually see the suffering human beneath the surface. And somehow I knew what was going to happen to him since he went to park that damn car at the movie theater, and I felt bad for him, meaning that he really got under my skin before I even realized it.
As for the strong female character I fell in love with, well, I’ll leave it to you to guess. You’re welcome to comment with your guesses. If it helps you, I’d never have thought it could happen with this particular character, but still. I’ve said time and time again how much I love things that defy expectations, so it’s just another point scored by “The Red Line”.
Also, the “weapon” used by the terrorists is a very peculiar one, and it plays with some fascinating aspects of psychology and perception. I think it can also be seen as a metaphor for how some intrusive and ill-meaning thoughts can get into your head at any moment, but I don’t want to spoil too much about the book. As I always say, you really should read it for yourself.
What I love even more about “The Red Line” is that it seems like this is not the end of the story, and I can’t wait to meet Mitch and his team of “sheriffs” again as they try to fix a situation that is not entirely resolved.