Duane Swierczynski,
Severance Package
(Minotaur, 2008)

"His name was Paul Lewis and he didn't know he had seven minutes to live." With that, the gates fly open and Severance Package is off and running. Within pages, we're treated to a death by potato salad. Then, the last words a dying man hears from his wife is, "Well, this is ahead of schedule." And that's just the first six pages.

Whoa, Nelly!

Nearly all the action in this book happens on the 37th floor of an office building in downtown Philadelphia, and it happens over a period of about four hours. That's also about the time it takes to read the book. I read it in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon.

This noir at its pulpiest. Or maybe pulp at its noirist. Without delving too deeply into the plot, I will warn you up front that you have to suspend an elephant-sized amount of disbelief. Feats are performed that are hardly humanly possible. People survive despite incredible amounts of damage being inflicted on them. There is torture, mutilation, amputation and a guy gets a cookie crumbled into his mouth (a very funny scene).

Want characterization? Don't bother. Want emotion? There's only one -- rage. Want cold, hard logic? Not here.

Want over-the-top action? In spades. Some people have compared this to the movie Three Days of the Condor. Not so much. Think more the machine-gun-leg part of Planet Terror -- but less tasteful.

Then there's Molly Lewis. She's one thing with a gun. Another with an exacta knife. And still more with the unscrewed cutting arm of a paper trimmer. And I'm not even going into the woman who pulls the trigger of a gun with her tongue because she can't use her hands.

review by
Dave Sturm

5 September 2009

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