The Protectors is an engaging thriller that maintains suspense as characters are revealed to not be who they seem.
In Jolynn Angelini’s intriguing novel The Protectors, spouses, neighbors, and colleagues are not who they seem to be.
Angie and Jeff are a married couple who run a successful business. They appear to have it all, until their new hire, Carl, starts acting out of character. Carl goes missing; then Jeff disappears. With Carl’s wife, Anna, Angie is caught in a tangled web of deceit. People she was close to and whom she thought she knew turn out to have concealed affairs, indiscretions, and identities. Deaths are faked; people ask to be killed. The stakes of her investigation are deadly.
The story is told from different perspectives, but mostly from Angie’s point of view. This limited point of view is effective, as the thriller depends on unexpected surprises. She recounts her experiences—her ordinary suburban life and nuclear family unit—in a way that sets up the grounded, twisting story well, especially as it goes to wild and dark places.
Foreboding suburban streets convey a sense of dread; casual phone calls from loved ones are suddenly menacing. However, conversations are a vehicle for exposition. They are stilted and repetitious in doing this work. Characters affirm realizations and ask back questions, stating things that would better be illustrated.
Much about the characters’ backgrounds is glossed over, though the main characters are given satisfying narrative arcs. Supporting characters are underdeveloped or fleshed out in exposition, and most are used to move the plot forward.
Short chapters and frequent revelations keep the pace brisk. Chapters end on suspenseful notes, maintaining the novel’s tension. The book withholds enough key information to keep a high level of interest throughout. Its plot twists are foreshadowed but not telegraphed.
The prose succeeds most when describing the mundane, as with what happens in driveways and airports. Its dramatic confrontations are tepid by comparison: a gunfight between a major character and his mother unfurls in a single paragraph without much immediacy or drama, and awkward phrasing deflates the scene. Similarly, an admission of infidelity is conveyed without compelling emotions.
The story builds to an ending that is satisfying, giving Angie a much-deserved moment of comeuppance, and moves to an epilogue that provides closure. The Protectors is an engaging thriller that maintains suspense, careening through unexpected developments.
Joseph S. Pete
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