cover image She Rides Shotgun

She Rides Shotgun

Jordan Harper. Ecco, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-239440-8

At the start of Harper’s visceral, pulpy, vernacular-filled first novel, introspective 11-year-old Polly McClusky has an unexpected reunion on the steps of her Southern California middle school with her estranged father, Nate. Nate has recently been released from Pelican Bay State Prison, where a gang known as Aryan Steel issued a death warrant for him and his family, including Polly’s mom, Avis. Nate is committed to saving Polly from the Aryan Steel killers, though he’s too late to prevent the brutal murder of Avis and her new husband. Nate, Polly, and her stuffed bear, who serves to articulate the swirling emotions that Polly hesitates to voice, go on the run, sought by not only the gang but also Det. John Park, who’s investigating the murders. Nate and Polly’s relationship blooms, despite their being in constant crisis-survival mode, as the action builds to a climax that’s over-the-top but consistent with what has gone before. Expert pacing and well-developed characters lift this above the thriller pack. Harper is also the author of a story collection, 2016’s Love and Other Wounds. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber. (June)