Charlie and Devon fight like cats and dogs and then love like humans in their struggle to fend off murderers. More
. The protagonist, of course, is the individual whose fate matters most to the reader. It is a characteristic of Samantha Shu's novels that the characters advance from a kind of nascent viewpoint to a deeper and deeper involvement in the ever-changing, ever-driving plot. The ability to chart that journey is the mark of a mature story-teller, and the growth or curve of the author's vision makes us all care about the development of the characters as well as the surface texture and the fine details.
Blood line begins with a character in transition, as she finds herself in a new assignment and a new situation. The novel ends, forty-two chapters later, with a climatic and cathartic kiss. In between, we are introduced to, and subsequently follow, Charlie and Devon and a host of other characters major and minor. Together they are engaged in a process of interaction and revelation. Like most literary works, Blood Line is concerned with a core set of truths. In a larger sense, as I have written of Samantha Shu's work elsewhere, the author is concerned here with a theme as old as the Old Testament, and that is the eternal battle between good and evil, darkness and light, and lawlessness and the law.
In the case of Blood Line we read simply because we find the characters compelling and the story immensely attractive. The dramatic tension is certainly there, as well as the intimate access to events that demand our attention. We turn. We read. We turn and read some more. Before we know it we are a third of the way through, and then half-way through. Blood Line is a page-turner, and the fact that it is -- at a time when many critics
bemoan life in the "post-literate age" -- is a testimony to Samantha Shu's skill as a writer, and her deep knowledge of the human condition.
The genre reached its apex in the work of Dashiell Hammet, Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie and hundreds of other fine 20th century authors. Samantha Shu stands out, in this line, for her devotion to the female perspective, for her ability to re-imagine the world, and for the uniqueness of her 21st century Weltanschauung.
One has the sense, in the case of Samantha Shu, that she takes her inspiration, first, from her own life, secondly, from the lives of those around her, and thirdly, from her own vivid and powerful imagination. She observes the flow of life and sees it all as a grand pageant struck through with light and dark. She knows that it requires commentators like herself in order to fully appreciate and understand. Once again, in Blood Line, she transcends expectation and takes us over the horizon, which is another way of saying she brings us back to the splendor and travail of this often troubled but endlessly fascinating world.
John A. Murray 7-11-2009