Title: The Broken Parachute Man: A Novel of Medical Intrigue
Author: Robert B. Bolin
Format: Hardback and Paperback Print.
Number of Pages: 300
Summary: After middling pharmaceutical company executive Clyde Young boards an airplane to attend a national meeting to make a presentation concerning his employer’s premium drug, his schedule is thrown into a curve when terrorists hijack the plane. After refusing to keep his head down, he is hurled out with a parachute that barely functions.
He is able to survive in the wilderness, but upon his arrival back to civilization, no one believes his story. They assume he is one of the terrorists that hijacked the airplane, so Young escapes to Las Vegas to determine why he was targeted and who was responsible for his ordeal. He lives as a street person and meets four people who believe his story: a sociopath, a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor and a pickpocket.
These people become his allies. They travel with him to the east coast and then to Europe. As Young continues his investigation, he discovers abuses on the part of his employer that could result in mortal danger for innumerable innocent patients. He must act quickly to expose the danger by staying one step ahead of the unknown criminals who are closing in on him and his allies.
Price: $18.95 (paperback)
Author Bio: Author of Unwanted
Inheritance, Robert B. Bolin practiced oncology in a small northwestern town in the United States for more than twenty-one years and has written several medical articles. He currently lives in eastern Oregon.
As a thriller, The Broken Parachute Man suffers from an identity crisis: it starts out
with a bang, but soon veers into a wilderness survival guide, then a gritty life-on-the-streets drama before settling into a detective story wrapped around a lesson
on pharmaceutical drug research and development. But in the end I liked it as a coming-of-middle-age character study.
Clyde Young is a middle-aged, middle-management type with average looks. He’s a bit
frightened of the world, unsure of himself, and is hopelessly stuck in a dull, predictable life. Getting thrown out of an airplane by terrorists is probably the best thing that could have happened to him. He survives a hard winter stranded in the mountains, learns to live on the streets, and finally pushes to discover why he of all people was targeted for elimination by a pharmaceutical company. He doesn’t instantly transform into a rough, self-assured man, but as he perseveres through each small victory, he slowly comes to realize his own strength of will. The Broken Parachute Man isn’t the best thriller I’ve read; it rarely gets you on the edge of your seat with nail-biting action, but I really liked Clyde, and rooted for him throughout the book. He was like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable; each plodding step bringing him closer to solving the mystery that started with a shove out of a plane.
The book starts out as a thriller, what with Clyde getting pushed out of an airplane and landing in the mountains and all. However, he doesn’t get rescued right away. Instead, he has to survive several months in the wilderness. This part of the story doesn’t fit the “thriller” genre, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. After he gets rescued, he ends up homeless in Las Vegas, and we see him developing friendships with other homeless
characters and learning to live in a different type of wilderness: the streets. Again, not a thriller, but it works as a drama of sorts. Finally, Clyde decides to start investigating the company he worked for, and he slowly solves the mystery, which includes an overly complicated explanation of drug formulation. At one point near the end, Clyde says, “I think I can see the players, but the plot is too complex for me.” That’s about how I felt; there were several “bad guys” each with multifarious motives. Keeping it all straight took a bit more concentration than I prefer. The author apparently thought so too, because after the main mystery is solved, he has the characters explain the plot in detail to each other to make sure we, the readers, understand who did what and why.
The Broken Parachute Man is filled with memorable characters, though I had trouble
telling the difference between two of them: Dan and George, Clyde’s homeless buddies. I blame this on myself rather than the author, however, because he infused both
characters with their own quirks and disparate personalities. I don’t know why I couldn’t keep them straight; perhaps because both were introduced at about the same time and have rather nondescript names. The rest of the characters were quite clear in my mind, and all were fleshed out.
The book, however, contains a most egregious error for a thriller/mystery: the character Dan asserts that another character couldn’t have been responsible for a particular criminal attack because that character was already in jail. This claim didn’t sound right when I read it, so I immediately went back and read the previous chapters and discovered the criminal attack happened a full four days prior to the arrest.
Oops. Looks like the storyline was too complex for even the author to keep straight.
But the one thing about The Broken Parachute Man that really irritated me was the
author’s choice to periodically speak directly to the reader throughout the first several chapters. The moment Clyde gets a parachute strapped to him and shoved out the
plane, the author interjects the story with this: “At this time, I’m sure you, the reader, are questioning the story and wondering if I’m confabulating.” Huh? I’m in the middle of one of the most exciting moments in the book and the author yanks me out to tell me what I’m thinking? Later when Clyde wakes to discover he has survived the fall out of the plane, the author asserts, “Now, if I was a reasonable reader, at this point, I would scoff at the whole story.” Once again I’m pulled out of the adventure and told to question the validity of the events. Um, I’m reading a fiction book here. The suspension of disbelief is a given. Don’t jump in and tell me I shouldn’t trust every word. Did Tolkien constantly interrupt his readers to say, “I’m sure you’re having trouble believing in the existence of hobbits.” Or “As a reasonable reader, you’re probably scoffing at the idea of a magical ring.” Absolutely not. When I’m reading Lord of the Rings I totally believe in hobbits, elves, wizards and powerfully evil rings. Thankfully the author quit jumping in with unwanted opinions after the first few chapters.
Overall, The Broken Parachute Man is a lousy thriller, but the characters were so lively
and sympathetic, I didn’t much care that the plot was a convoluted, slow-paced mess. I’m unlikely to read it again, but I’m don’t feel cheated for having read it once. Experiencing Clyde Young’s transformation into a hopeful, confidant individual was worth it.
Buy The Broken Parachute Man: A Novel of Medical Intrigue
Visit the authors website at http://www.robertbolin.com