08 September 2014

The Upshot by Brad Spencer

 As children, Sam McElroy, Holly Karlan, and Jimmer Cuddy were inseparable. Growing up on the same block, the trio became best friends. All three seemed on the cusp of bright futures. But their indelible bond unraveled after a tragic incident during their teen years.

Forced to keep a secret that changes who they are, the friends travel down unintentional paths, riddled with guilt and shame. They are weakened emotionally by the tragic event of the past and conflicted about how to ultimately avenge it.

In his debut novel, Brad Spencer evokes a hard-edged Elmore Leonard-style in his writing to produce a riveting and harrowing thriller complete with explosive action, a wickedly evil villain, and troubled but endearing heroes.
Upshot is a unique thriller where friendship and heartbreak take center stage. Sam McElroy, Holly Karlan, and Jimmer Cuddy, have known one another since they were kids. The trio grew up together as neighbors, classmates and best friends. They built a beautiful bond but a tragic moment strikes one of them during their teenage years and it creates a damaging ripple effect on their lives.

 As the three go off their separate ways into adulthood they struggle to deal with the buried secrets of the past and the pitfalls life continues to throw at them. We see Sam, Holly and Jimmer go from peaceful happy suburban childhood best friends to adults immersed in a scary and dark world involving loveless relationships, drugs, prostitution, violence, addiction, depression and gangs.

The story opens up 25 years later with Sam reflecting on the past and how fate stepped in and brought him to this point of his life. We know that something devastating happened 25 years ago but we’re not privy to the event just yet. As the story progresses Brad Spencer moves back and forth from the past to the present, from character to character, slowly revealing the dark undercurrents of their lives and the tragic event that has haunted them.

My emotions took a roller coaster ride with the book as the scenes went back and forth from sweet endearing childhood moments of friendship to the harsh reality of their adult lives. Sam is the main protagonist of the story but even with his voice serving as the main point of view Spencer gives the readers insight into the minds of other characters.

The antagonist of the story Rory James is one loathsome guy with some sick predilections. As the story is told the reader gets to see a little of his psyche through flashbacks and we get a view of how he operates through the inner dialogue of his employee, Cortez. Spencer is great at writing characters in a way that reveals the emotional toll they are experiencing and it makes for gripping scenes.

The heroes in this story aren’t your typical heroic characters. They aren’t even really heroes. They’re anti-heroes, human beings with flaws and insecurities who are trying to find their way out of the darkness and obtain some sense of peace. This isn’t a book with a happy ending but it’s a satisfying ending. It’s a sad and disturbing story but underneath all of that it’s about the bonds of friendship and how far someone is willing to go to find a resolution.
Sometimes we experience painful events in our lives that change us forever. Those moments can consume us and in turn rock the very foundation of who we are and sometimes the only way to get past the suffering is to go after the person who caused it. Sometimes revenge is the only way to find peace.

Brad Spencer spent more than twelve years as an editor/writer in the newspaper business before becoming an independent professional writer, journalist, and columnist. The Upshot is his first novel. For more information about his writing, visit BradSpencer.net


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