Review | You Belong to Me, Colin Harrison

31574745Paul Reeves is an immigration lawyer in New York City with a passion for old maps. When he discovers his beautiful and married next door neighbour Jennifer Mehraz in the arms of a handsome man who isn’t her husband, Paul is unwittingly drawn into a complex scheme of murder and obsession. Jennifer’s husband Ahmed, a wealthy Iranian financier-lawyer, puts out a hit on his wife’s boyfriend, and the job eventually makes its way to a bloodthirsty Mexican biker who used to work for El Chapo and who is determined to find the source of the job and demand a higher payday.

Paul wants to help Jennifer, but more importantly, he wants to own an old map he discovered at an auction which the current owner wants to sell for much higher than Paul can afford. This obsession over the map will eventually play a role in the larger scale scheme with the Mexican assassin.

You Belong To Me kept me reading but never really grabbed me. It reminded me of old school Hollywood action movies where the men are muscled and own guns and the women are beautiful but don’t do too much. It’s an entertaining enough story and, on the big screen with a tub of popcorn and an action star being chased by stunt men, it may be exciting. As it was, it felt solid but not very memorable. I’ve heard it described as a ‘noir’ thriller, which could explain the stock characters, but it lacked the edge, distinct voice and atmosphere that I like about Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett’s books.

Minor spoiler (but hopefully vague enough that it isn’t spoilerish): The one thing that did evoke a reaction in me was the part about Ahmed’s citizenship status. I know he’s a bad guy in this book, and he did a lot of bad things that make him deserve whatever he gets. But some of his characterization and the things that happened to him didn’t quite sit right with me. Much of the book built up Ahmed as being super powerful and untouchable because of his wealth, whereas Jennifer and her blond soldier were the poor unfortunates in danger. I admit my own personal bias here, but all I kept thinking was that in present day America, no matter how much wealth you’ve amassed, with a name like Ahmed Mehraz, you can still never be secure about victory in the courtroom. And when his past is dredged up and his citizenship status becomes an issue, it was a stark reminder of how tenuous a right citizenship is.

Overall, I think the book just felt stale to me. We’ve seen all of this before: the racialized villains, the beautiful damsel in distress, the ordinary hero and the beautiful women utterly in love with him. And the book itself just didn’t feel compelling enough to make it all feel fresh.

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Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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