Lines in the Sand is a pretty hot and entertaining read. It deals with the moral ambiguity of criminals and crimes. The two main characters are interesting with a lot of chemistry. The story is pretty internal with both men in their heads a lot, almost too much, but for the most part Gala’s clean writing and evocative descriptions are what keep me reading. This particular story is just long enough to satisfy without being too long and the situations are handled well with an appreciative eye to the future. If you’re a fan of the author you’ll likely really enjoy this one.
The plot deals with ex-mobster driver Carl three years after he turned in his employers. One of those is Pete, mob hit man and part time crush of Carl’s. Carl’s been kicked out of the witness protection program and Pete has found him. Carl’s worried that Pete is there to kill him but Pete has a much different future in mind. Together the two head for Mexico and Pete’s auto-body shop but there is a lot between the men that has to be worked out.
The story is very internal and character driven with a stark desert background. The isolation is necessary given the men’s pasts but at the same time really limits what and who is involved. There are several secondary characters but none is that important and easily forgettable. The Mexico setting is so desolate and empty that there is little description and interest. Instead it falls on the characterization to carry the story, which it does pretty well. Pete and Carl are both flawed men with their own morality. They’ve both been in jail and committed crimes without much guilt. They accept their lives and their choices for the reasons they had – some good, some bad. For the most part neither man is wallowing in guilt.
There are some issues from their past that don’t always make sense – such as Carl’s obsession with a widow of a man Pete killed and this entire exchange changing Pete’s perspective. This didn’t ring true given their moral and intellectual reasoning up until then but as it fits the flow of the story I just went with it rather than taking it apart. Some of these personality changes are more for effect than in keeping with the true character of the men but they’re well crafted and written in such a way you can buy into the rationalization. Additionally the moral questions both Pete and Carl ponder are interesting and how they relate to their past and future form the core premise that holds up well over the course of the story.
There are a few additional stumbles as the writing and internal monologue gets very repetitive. We’re told the same information numerous times and although it’s meant to reinforce the basis of the relationship, it’s not needed. I certainly didn’t forget the information that quickly and kind of grew tired of the same internal thoughts. There are also several obvious editing mistakes that could distract for some readers.
However these are relatively minor qualms since the strength of the characterization and writing really carries the story. The moral questions are intriguing, especially so in such flawed men, and adds another layer of interest. It’s a story I’d recommend for fans of the author first and others if the few issues won’t bother you.