Review: “Triangle,” Teri White

Pros: Fascinating psychological relationships
Cons: Not what I was expecting from the description
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review ebook provided free by publisher via NetGalley.

 

I read somewhere that Triangle was Teri White’s first novel. If so, I’m impressed–first novels are rarely this good. (And if not, hey, it’s still really good!)

Mac and Johnny meet in Vietnam. Johnny is an odd character in need of looking after. He’s childlike and simple, and Mac decides to take him under his wing. When they get back to the States they stick together, but Mac is forever losing their money in poker games. Eventually they find that Johnny is really good at killing. Mac takes the contracts, Johnny does the killing, and Mac loses the money in poker games, ’round and ’round.

Then one day Johnny ends up killing a cop without even realizing it. The cop’s partner, Simon, becomes obsessed with tracking down his partner’s killer. But how hard will it be to find someone who doesn’t remotely seem capable of killing?

 

It’s fairly remarkable how reasonable White makes this whole situation seem. Meek Johnny’s relationship with belligerent Mac seesaws between sweet and abusive. On the one hand, Mac has given Johnny a home and someone to take care of him, make his decisions and protect him from others. On the other hand, Mac has a temper, and Johnny isn’t very good at standing up for himself. It’s a beautifully drawn codependent and abusive relationship between two people who really do care about each other–but sometimes caring isn’t enough. Gradually police detective Simon starts to put together the pieces, following Mac and Johnny from state to state, because Johnny killed Simon’s undercover partner.

Simon becomes obsessed with Johnny. Unlike most movies, when he spends all his time trying to track down his partner’s murderer, disobeying his superiors all the way, he doesn’t come out on top. His department, co-workers and family start backing away from Simon’s increasingly erratic behavior. But Simon won’t stop until he finds Johnny.

Unfortunately I can’t discuss some of the neatest material without giving plot points away. So instead I’ll say this: the triangle of relationships between Mac, Johnny, and Simon grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go. Johnny, who should by all rights be the book’s worst of bad guys, is the character that made me tear up–and I wanted to root for him rather than any other character. Triangle is more of a character study than your average thriller novel, and I in no way felt cheated by that. This is one of the better books I’ve read recently.

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