Book review: SEVERANCE PACKAGE
Severance Package is brand new from Duane Swierczynski, the third of his crime books I’ve read in the past year and a half. On his blog, Duane himself describes it as “essentially a pulp hybrid of a spy novel and a slasher flick.” A pretty good description, I guess. Like Duane’s last two novels — The Wheelman and The Blonde — Severance Package is genre-bending. It flips the conventions of crime fiction on their heads, grabs ’em by their ankles, then pile-drives them into the concrete. This fucker goes full throttle from the first page. And when it’s finished, you need about an hour to sit still with a glass of your favorite iced beverage pressed to your forehead.
Maybe Severance Package walloped me so effectively because, well, its protagonist, Jamie Debroux, is a PR hack for a company of questionable ethics; for some 15 years, that’s what I did for a living. But I never dealt with the madness Jamie does in Swierczynski’s story. You see, Jamie and his co-workers are called into the office on a Saturday morning for a special meeting, told by their boss that the business has been a front for government intelligence, that it’s being shut down, that the elevators are locked, that the stairwells are rigged with sarin gas bombs, and that each of them is expected to drink the Kool-Aid. Then, as they say, the high-jinks begin.
But here’s the thing. Through all the violence and bloodshed, Severance Package is a goddamn LOVE STORY. It’s about the love of a man for his family, the love of employees for job security, the love between men and women, and men and men, and women and women. Granted, it may be a sick and twisted love story, but it has a lot to say about how we often cling to people and position and possessions and how maybe that’s not always a good thing.
Duane Swierczynski rocks. Read this novel and get rattled to your core. Then lend it to a friend, sit back, and watch them squirm for awhile.