Received a copy of Killer Within:An Allison Mcneil Thriller by Jeff Gunhus through the First Reads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review "Life is revealed through experience, the canyon had whispered to
him. Not seen through a screen, or read about, or talked about.
And his entire life was a step away from experience; he was on the
other side of the glass looking out; on the other side of the TV
screen looking in."
In a much earlier time Arnie Milhouse was a young man paralyzed by fear, terrified by life's experiences, and petrified by oncoming shadows, even his very own. Due to a childhood that is all too common, where many children would point out his own distinct characteristics, he evolved into a tortured teenager who was ridiculed for his high intellect as well as his acne prone skin. In fact Arnie's home life wasn't much of a sanctuary either. His parents divorced when he was thirteen, his father left never to be heard from again and his mother took to the bottle. Arnie departed from the home at sixteen unaware of what became of his parents; as he puts it, "The All-American Childhood." After a welcomed, albeit brief period in time of being a handsome young man, improving his body's muscularity, and in conjunction getting involved with women, his constant indecision lead him back to the life he thought he overcame. Arnie went back to the sheltered but consistent life of computers and mathematics and again transformed himself back into the meek and timid young man.
He eventually moved to a row house in Baltimore, Maryland, and married a mentally, physically, and emotionally abusive woman named Sophia Lane. Lucky for him one redeeming aspect came out of their relationship and that was the birth of their son Jason. There were very few moments of happiness as Sophia not only abused Arnie and their son but she was also using all kinds of drugs, was a raging alcoholic, and she also slept with other men in his own bed. One deeply-moving moment in Arnie's life happened while he was standing over the edge of the Grand Canyon where he remembers the Canyon whispering that he needs to experience life rather than living vicariously through the people on various forms of media. A year later not much has changed, he has found that old habits in fact do die hard. However; that all changes when he walks into Rocco's Convenience and Liquor store on a seemingly normal Tuesday night at 10:30 and experiences a feeling that will drive him until the day he dies.
Allison Mcneil is a determined young woman and has taken it upon herself to enroll in the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in order to make her father and grandfather proud. At eighteen she is one of the few females accepted into the Academy and undergoes a mentally, emotionally, and physically-compromising training regiment that went beyond the pages of the theoretical and practical curriculum. One night while at a party Allison goes through a terrifying event that will force her to withdraw from the Academy, in turn disappoint her father, and leave her with a feeling of weakness that will comeback to haunt her when she needs to be calm under pressure. "Trying desperately to block out the memory of that night, the night
that changed her forever. Blocking out her father's shame of his
daughter who couldn't hack it at the Academy. She thought she had
already battled and beat back these demons, but not even close.
They had been just crouching in the shadows, biding their time,
waiting to pounce and rip into her all over again."
As a result of her leaving, Allison took advantage of her desire for civic duty and became a Special Agent for the FBI. It was at this moment where she built her reputation for being an outspoken renegade that frequently has difficulties following the rules and thinking clearly during times of duress. Although she is consistently reprimanded for her actions, her utter disdain for bureaucratic work leads her back to the good graces of the board and into the dangerous perils of catching the nations hardened criminals.
Thirteen years later Arnie Milhouse is a fourty four year old self-made millionaire, who is good-looking and has a face with stories to tell. At the unexpected death of his wife on July 17th in a house fire, Arnie has turned the life insurance money into millions of dollars with securities all over the world. While in town investigating stock fraud Allison's and Arnie's world's will collide and even darker secrets will come to light.
The author does a tremendous job in putting the reader right in Annapolis flowing within the Chesapeake Bay and walking or running downtown along the Naval Academy campus. I like how the psychological motivations afflicted both the protagonist and antagonist in very similar manners that made them very comparable in every way but their resulting actions. Allison feels victimized by the Naval Academy, Arnie feels victimized by everyone. One person seeks to impose their strength on the weakness of others while the other looks to thwart these feelings with beer and/or ambien in hopes of a peaceful night's sleep. "Our nature calls for action but being bound in society means that
we're strapped down by the judging nature of society. Think about
it: some people fear public speaking more than death, that's how
much we allow ourselves to be sucked in and limited by the need to
"Yeah, but put a gun to their head and say 'get out there and talk
or I'm pulling the trigger,' and they wouldn't think twice. The
will to live is stronger than fear."
This book managed to have quite a few surprises which was shocking because I generally pick up on the peculiar things pretty early in the process. I was also surprised to find that this book wasn't part of an already established series. With the way that the story is presented to the reader, some of the past incidences pertaining to Allison's psychological complexities were a bit to obscure in helping develop her state of mind at given points. That is why I figured this was the second or third novel in the series because the author was only giving you enough for a subtle context of the story but not enough for full comprehension. For instance I would have liked a little more perspective on her father and grandfather's influence on her life and the decisions she made. Both figures seemed to have a dramatic impact on Allison I would have liked to know a little more. In the end this was a gripping thriller that was very well done and definitely belongs in the upper echelon of books I have read in this genre however limited it may be. " 'The thing I've learned from counseling over the last few weeks
is that the real injuries from rape are not the bruises and
scratches left all over my body.' Her hands move slowly around
her neck, over her breast and come to rest near the genital area
as if giving a catalog of her wounds. ' The real scar is emotional.
It's the lack of power you feel. It's the violation. It's the sense
that your self-worth and dignity are gone that make you not report.
Not stand up for what's right.' She turns to the woman. 'I was
raped. What's your excuse?' "