January 31, 2011
Take four middle-aged software engineers: Dan, Joel, Gordon, and Shrini. Now take away their jobs, just outsource those babies to India. Next, make sure they know that at their age the only employment they're likely to find will be McJobs. Then make sure that as their pride drifts away, so do their families. This is a recipe for desperate men. Desperate men make extreme decisions; theirs is to rob a bank. When the Russian and Italian mafia get involved, not to mention a smart cop who knows how to play a hunch, they might wish they'd settled for those McJobs.
Author Dave Zeltserman is perhaps best known for the lone sociopaths found in his "man out of prison" trilogy (Small Crimes, Pariah, and Killer), but in Outsourced he also displays a remarkable talent for delineating group dynamics, particularly when the group is under pressure. Jealousy, revenge, greed, deceit, bullying -- adult groups don't differ much from children's, but the adults in this story never see that. The author accurately applies those tense dynamics to families as well as criminal conspirators.
Zeltserman is always at his best when applying the turn of the screw, which he does here relentlessly. Plot twists arrive - and they arrive frequently - through people working at cross-purposes, through the misconstrued situation, hidden motives and actions, and the careful peeling back of layers of emotion. Any little thing can, and does, tip the balance of lives into abrupt violence. Following different characters at various checkpoints, the character threads are all neatly brought together by story's end, but not too neatly. The ending itself is a perfect moment of ambiguous noir, when doom isn't a bullet from out of the shadows or a cop at the door, but is instead as simple as living alone with one's own sins.
In only a couple of years, Dave Zeltserman has become one of my favorite "must read" authors. Outsourced, although written four years ago and just now being published in the US, proves not only that the man has talent, but consistently delivers a slam-bang story full of real-world complications. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.