Published by Penguin Books on December 30th 2014
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What if a man is placed in the Federal Witness Protection Program against his will?
And doesn’t even know what he supposedly knows that merits a new name, a new identity, a new life?
Jay Johnson is an Average Joe, a thirty-something guy with a job in telephone sales, a regular pick-up basketball game, and a devoted girlfriend he seems ready to marry. But one weekday afternoon, he’s abducted on a Los Angeles Metro train, tranquilized, interrogated, and his paper trail obliterated. What did he see, what terrible crime—or criminal—is he keeping secret? It must be something awfully big. The trouble is, Jay has no clue.
Furious and helpless, and convinced that the government has made a colossal mistake, Jay is involuntarily relocated to a community on Catalina Island—which turns out to be inhabited mainly by other protected witnesses. Isolated in a world of strangers, Jay begins to realize that only way out is through the twisted maze of lies and unreliable memories swirling through his own mind. If he can locate—or invent—a repressed memory that might satisfy the Feds, maybe he can make it back to the mainland and his wonderful, even if monotonous, life.
Set in a noir contemporary L.A. and environs, Fifty Mice is a Hitchcockian thriller as surreal and mysterious as a Kafka nightmare. Chilling, paranoiac, and thoroughly original, it will have readers grasping to distinguish what is real and what only seems that way.
Disclosure: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Jay Johnson is going through the motions of his humdrum life, when he’s scooped up and taken into protective custody. By whom, and for what reason, Jay doesn’t know. He’s not the most anything kind of person. Average is probably the most kind thing you could call Jay…
Fifty Mice is almost two hundred pages of Jay’s not knowing anything, railing against his watchers, pushing against the currents he’s caught under. Jay’s life on Catalina bring to mind that 60s television show The Prisoner, in that nothing is real. Not the neighbors, not the drunks in the local bar, not the guy with the boat rental in the harbor. No wonder Jay can’t tell if he’s already crazy – or just heading there…
Following along as Jay tries to figure things out can get confusing, as we bop to and fro from the current day to Jay’s memories – real or perceived – of past events. The story was too convoluted and slow-moving for me to really enjoy, but all is not lost. I did really like Jay’s interactions with the little girl who’s sharing his “safe” house on Catalina. Helen is quirky and fun and didn’t have enough scenes, though I totally get it as she’s not central to the story.
I liked Fifty Mice enough to recommend it for those who like a plot with plenty of puzzle pieces that don’t fit until you know what the picture looks like.
drey’s rating: Pick it up!
Have you read Fifty Mice? What did you think?