Published Aug 1, 2017 by MCD
Ricky Mendoza Jr. (aka Ghost) is trying to make good. As a teenager, he was a ruthless gangbanger, addict, and killer until he got out and met Rose. As an adult, in recovery and working as a safecracker for the DEA, Ghost is determined to live “clean” to honor Rose’s memory—until he stumbles upon an opportunity to repay the debts of his past. All he has to do is crack a safe and steal drug money from under the noses of the gangs and the feds without getting caught. Or killed.
A propulsive, engaging thriller by a novelist whose writing David Mitchell called “audacious, unflinching and subversive,” Ryan Gattis’s Safe drives readers toward a shocking conclusion while exploring deeper questions about what it means to be “good.”
For some reason I’m finding this book hard to review. On the one hand, there is so much I liked about it and up until about 60%, I felt it was ticking along quite nicely. I loved that it started off with a safecracking scene and felt that until that point I was really invested in the story. After that, however, it started to slip for me and by the end I feel like I had disconnected from the story just a little which is very strange considering how much I started off liking it.
The story starts off action packed as we are introduced to Ricky, aka Ghost, a safecracker who freelances for the DEA. He’s been called to a house of the DEA’s most recent drug bust and then left alone (yes alone!) to open the safe with instructions to call the DEA agent in charge after he gets it open. Here’s what’s so interesting about this scene….we learn from Ricky’s first person narration that in his past he was an addict and criminal who did some very bad things but for the past several years he’s tried to do right and now has a plan to really help some people who need it. His plan involves taking the cash in that safe and using it to help others in need. And with this current safe, he hits the jackpot. Time is ticking though because the safe he has just cracked and the money he has stolen belongs to one of the biggest drug lords in LA and you just know things aren’t going to go well when he finds out his money is gone.
Here is where the story alternates narration and we then meet Rudy Reyes, aka Glasses, the top associate of the drug lord who’s safe Ricky just cracked. Glasses has his own story to tell and soon a very interesting tale is weaved that will connect him and Ricky in ways that ended up being very surprising and in several instances quite suspenseful. The author’s style certainly shines with his use of language and dialect for both of these characters.
On paper, this is the perfect story for me and I found the author’s writing to be so wonderfully authentic. The dialogue was perfect and I really felt the characters were unique and multi-dimensional. Where it started to go downhill for me is the repetitive number of times Ghost was driving in a car and playing various songs on the mix-tape that his past girlfriend, Rose (she had died), had made for him. As narrator, he would then reminesce about times together (in detail) and repeat over and over how much she meant to him. I got it, I really did but by about 65% I’d heard enough because what that effectively did was break up the pace of the story and cause me to become bored which isn’t at all how I felt starting out and during the safe cracking scenes. Couple this with an ending that I just don’t feel made sense for what we knew of the characters and I was left slightly disconnected.
Many thanks to MCD for my copy via Netgalley, I’m happy to provide an honest review