Hank Steinberg the creator of
the hit TV series Without a Trace has written an action packed
novel, Out Of Range. Similar to the television show this thriller
keeps people guessing until the final page. Unlike other authors
famous for their visual media credentials, Steinberg created
a plot that is fast-paced with likeable protagonists and nasty
antagonists. He even gets this point across in a subtle way
by referring to the good guys with their first names and the
bad guys by their last names.
Steinberg commented, “Yes, the book feels like the biggest
episode of Without A Trace. After working all those
years on the TV show my brain subconsciously had the main
theme. The heart of every episode is that when someone went
missing they had a secret that they were keeping from someone.
Inevitably it was what they kept from others that was the
key to why they were taken.”
The plot takes off from the very first page when journalist
Charlie Davis and his wife, Julie, an aid worker, barely escape
a riot in Uzbekistan six years ago. Their friend Alisher Byko,
a leader of the demonstration sees his wife and son shot to
death by the government’s police. Vowing never to put
himself or his family in harm’s way Charlie accepts
a position at the LA Times while Julie becomes a stay at home
mom, raising their two children. They appear to be enjoying
the life of a normal suburban family, which must include taking
the children to Disneyland. On their return trip from the
happiest place on earth, Julie and the children get stuck
in typical LA traffic. She is on the phone with Charlie, discussing
alternate routes, and agrees to call him as soon as she escapes
the traffic jam. But the call never comes. Fearful for her
safety, Charlie races to the area he sent her to. There, he
finds police surrounding her car. The kids are both safe,
but Julie is nowhere to be found. As with his TV show Julie
vanishes unexpectedly without any rhyme or reason. As he searches
for her, Charlie discovers secrets Julie has been hiding.
Determined to find his wife and get answers from her, Charlie
sets out on an international investigation that leads to the
dangerous world of espionage and terrorism.
As with most thrillers the protagonist becomes an action hero
to save the day. At times believability is suspended but this
in no way distracts the reader from the fast-moving and intense
plot. There are a number of fascinating subplots from the
motivations of the characters to understanding the conflicts
within developing countries in Eastern Europe.
Steinberg explained, “The character relationship is
an essential part of the book. Julie has an emotional connection
with the antagonist Byko from their college days. She is yearning
for something from her past. The spine of the book is about
Julie and Charlie’s marriage and will they be able to
reclaim their love. These three characters have a unique and
tangled relationship from the very beginning. After the tragic
event in Uzbekistan, Charlie went into hiding; Julie yearned
to be a part of something that would make a difference; and
Byko succumbed to his rage and vengefulness. That is why I
choose the setting of the Eastern European country of Uzbekistan.
I wanted a place that would be greyer in terms of the moral
pallet, and would create some complexity for the protagonist.
I was able to use the setting to emphasize the theme where
there are these three people that must deal with the fear,
guilt, and tragedy of an event that started in this country.”
One of the most interesting parts of the book is the portrayal
of Julie as a discontented stay at home mom. These feelings
appear to drain the spark from their marriage, to the point
that Julie contemplates leaving Charlie. The tension in their
marriage has Julie searching for something more than just
being a housewife, which is why she decides to help British
intelligence find a terrorist whom she knows from her college
days. This subplot is a great story about people who just
want to make a difference in their own small way.
Steinberg explained he created Julie’s character, “To
reflect the modern day woman. Even though she was a kidnapped
woman held in a fortress she never cried for help but courageously
dealt with the interrogation and the circumstances. She knowingly
refused to give up. She has big ambitions and wants to do
more with her life than just being a housewife. A lot of women
contemplate giving up their career to raise their children.
There is the internal conflict of being engaged, involved,
and doing something more with your life. There are these yearnings
and secrets within Julie that I hope women can relate to.
I wanted to explore the dynamics between two people and how
the relationship changes when the circumstances shift. Julie
felt disconnected to the outside world while living in Los
Angeles. There are not very many more places you can go to
where you feel that you are living in a bubble.”
Out Of Range is an intriguing story with many twists
and turns. Readers will be kept on the edge of their seats
with this suspenseful plot. There is non-stop action from
beginning to end with fascinating characters.