Life or Death

Michael Robotham. Little, Brown/Mulholland, $26 (432p) ISBN 978-0-316-25205-8

Early in this so-so standalone from Australian author Robotham, Audie Palmer escapes from a Texas prison with only a day remaining on his 10-year sentence. A decade earlier, authorities named Audie Palmer as an accomplice in a high-profile armored-car robbery that left four people dead, including a security guard, and $7 million unaccounted for. Readers follow Audie as he tries to stay under the radar, his present peppered with flashbacks from his troubled past and bittersweet memories of the only woman he ever loved. While it’s obvious that Audie isn’t wholly guilty, the depth of the conspiracy isn’t clear, and Robotham (Suspect) teases out some genuinely interesting twists. Unfortunately, American readers will have a problem with Audie’s implausibly short sentence for felony murder in Texas (despite the intricate plot machinations to justify it) and the ease with which he gets away from a Texas prison unscathed. British usage also jars (e.g., an old man tells Audie he’s had a “row” with his girlfriend). [em]Agent: Richard Pine, Inkwell Management. (Mar.) [/em]