Foreword Reviews


Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

Apart is a soapy thriller packed with action scenes and spattered in blood.

C. J. Pastore’s fast, dramatic thriller Apart follows a young couple who are menaced by a vengeful Russian gangster. With exciting scenes and stimulating dialogue, the novel is a page turner from start to finish.

Alicia Cesare, “a walking soap opera at the age of twenty-two,” and Chase Reardon are newlyweds, but they both bring serious baggage to their relationship. Chase, a soldier headed to his second deployment to Afghanistan, has a score to settle with the mafia. Alicia, who is overly eager to prove herself, is stubborn and naïve. When Chase heads back to the Middle East, she’s easy prey for Chase’s enemies.

Old grudges, bad blood, and family bonds are the catalysts for the novel’s action. Beginning with a tense flashback to Chase’s first deployment, Apart keeps the action moving at a tooth-rattling pace, leaping from explosion to explosion with barely a pause in between. Characters inhabit a world where danger lurks around every shadowy corner; they are each pushed to their absolute limits.

Rich details make for visceral scenes, and theatrical touches, from Russian mafia thugs to stillborn babies, only heighten the drama. As Alicia recalls the night of a gruesome attack: “Disgust tightens my stomach and inches up to my throat as I relive the coppery stench of the ruthless mobster’s blood spurting over my body.” Very little is boring or ordinary.

For Alicia in particular, everything that can go wrong does. Her stomach flips over in every chapter, but the level of anxiety she expresses seems out of touch with her actual experiences as a traumatized, stalked rape survivor. Considering the amount of drama she endures, Alicia is remarkably thick skinned.

Apart is a sequel, and although its action is contiguous to the first book, this entry spends a lot of time recapping previous events. The narrative leans heavily on flashbacks, sometimes using them within sections of backstory; they detract from the novel’s strong forward motion and bog down the plot.

In the novel’s few quiet moments, the main characters seem bored. Dialogue slows the pacing, especially in scenes with the Cesare family. However, when characters have a job to do, they’re no talk and all action, taking on every challenge that comes their way.

Chase and Alicia have good chemistry, adding an erotic charge to the tale. Satisfyingly graphic sex scenes offer a welcome breather from nearly nonstop drama, family discussions, and flashbacks. When the newlyweds have a few moments together, their scenes are well written, clear, and easy to follow, with few wasted lines.

Apart is a soapy thriller packed with action scenes and spattered in blood. With a shocking reveal in every scene, this novel turns the heat to high—and cooks with gas.

Reviewed by Claire Foster

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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