Tim Green,
Exact Revenge
(Time Warner, 2005)

If I started talking about a young man in love with his beautiful fiancee, on top of the world with a great job who suddenly gets imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, works for years on his plans for revenge, escapes, finds great wealth and slowly works on putting those plans in to motion to turn the tables on all who did him wrong, you would be forgiven for thinking I was talking about Jesus (Jim Caviezel, Passion of the Christ) in the 2002 film The Count of Monte Cristo.

In this case, I'm writing about Tim Green's audiobook Exact Revenge. Raymond White was in his mid-20s, engaged to a beautiful woman, and pretty much assured of becoming the replacement for a congressman who was on his deathbed. However, three conspirators had different plans for Raymond and his fiancee's future. Raymond was framed for murdering the late congressman's mistress. Goodbye marriage. Goodbye politics. Hello, hell behind four walls.

For two decades, Raymond built up quite a level of hate, spending most of his life in solitary with time to think and focus on the wrongs done to him. This hate oozes out of the speakers as Stephen Lang (movies include Gods & Generals and Tombstone) narrates the story. Lang's emotional projection is strong enough to leave you feeling tainted as you listen to Exact Revenge unfold. This is definitely not a feel-good book.

Shortly after we first meet Raymond, he saves the life of Lester Cole, an old art and jewel thief who squirreled away a fortune before landing in prison. For decades he has slowly been working on escape. He owes Raymond a life and includes him in his escape plans as well as telling Raymond of his hidden cache of treasures. He molds Raymond's anger and desire for retribution teaching him that to "exact revenge" one dishes it out 10 times, 100 times worse than they received.

Since the story is about getting revenge, you know Raymond escapes. He acquires Lester's wealth and starts a false life. He works his way back in to the lives of those from his past. Thanks to plastic surgery and a name change, they know him as Seth Cole. Seth sets these people up for falls worse than 20 years behind bars. I won't go in to the three methods Raymond, or Seth, uses to make the perpetrators pay, except to mention that I thought this character went overboard. If you believe that children are guilty of the crimes of their parents', you may disagree with me. In fact, you might find this book enlightening instead of dark and depressing like I did. Note that dark and depressing does not necessarily equate to bad. If that is what the author and narrator intended to get across to the listener, then they succeeded admirably!

I did have one minor pet peeve with this audiobook. Time Warner is inconsistent with how they break up the tracks from audiobook to audiobook. It is nice when the tracks correspond to chapters, or at least cohesive segments. If you listen to a random track from this audiobook, you will most likely hear a 6.5- to 7-minute track that starts in the middle of a scene and stops in the middle of a totally different one. It is as if Time Warner had a machine wait for a pause after the 6.5-minute mark and cut there. Since I listen to audiobooks over the course of several days and on more than one CD player, this annoyed me to no end. But, this faux pax is the CD producer's fault, not the authors. And if you listen to your audiobooks all at once (or at least one full CD at a time) and/or on one CD player that remembers where you were when you last played the CD, this might not be an issue for you.

Knowing that this story is about entertainment, not reality, I will say that I was entertained. I would like to think that folks like some of the characters described here do not exist in the world. And if they do, I hope never to cross paths with them. For the most part, I enjoy Green's writing well enough. He writes decent thrillers. I have reviewed several of his other audiobooks including The Fourth Perimeter, The Fifth Angel and The First 48. This one seems to be on par with his other novels, although the emotional drain is way more intense. If you don't mind that and a new twist on a previously told tale doesn't bother you, this is an audiobook to check out.

by Wil Owen
4 February 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.