Anyone who knows E. A. Aymar would expect nothing less – The Unrepentant is a pull-no-punches narrative that treads the line between riveting thriller and sobering exposé, never short on action-packed set-pieces staged against a backdrop of the darkest of criminal realities; but also fully homed in on humanity’s heart and soul, at once both empathetic and authentic, with an underlying use of dark, witty repartee and riposte to infuse some breathing room into what was potentially a somber and depressive atmosphere.
E. A. Aymar wisely wastes no time with unnecessary build-up. The Unrepentant starts with a bang and moves effortlessly forward at ever increasing velocity. On page one, military-trained Mace Peterson stumbles upon what appears to be the abduction of a teen girl. Unable to simply stand by as witness, Mace jumps into action and helps to remove Charlotte Reyes from the dangerous situation only to discover that his involvement now places them both at even greater risk.
Charlotte is a Latina spitfire who is taking none of this sitting down. The Unrepentant could easily have devolved into a testosterone-heavy, macho slugfest, but not in Aymar’s practiced hands. He makes the very wise decision to let Charlotte rise to a level of characterization far too rarely afforded female characters in the action-thriller subgenre. Yes, she is victim of sex trafficking, but Charlotte is also allowed to be a self-savior, hell-bent on revenge and retribution. She is more than capable of handling herself in the many difficult situations staged by the various men intent on dehumanizing her. Even when Charlotte has no choice but to capitulate to the abuse, it is never presented as surrendering or giving-up, but rather reflects a survival technique that is sadly all too common in these situations.
A story such as the one presented in The Unrepentant needs a villain who is both scary-as-hell and frighteningly easy to understand. Never one to short-change his readers, E. A. Aymar gives readers not one, but several truly evil characters. But in doing so, he makes sure not to craft them as caricatures serving only that one function in the narrative. These are criminals who are as equally fleshed-out as his protagonists and while readers will justifiably despise them, they will come away equally angry at a civilized society that allows for their existence and proliferation without recrimination.
The landscape of The Unrepentant finds Aymar exploring all corners of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. Readers familiar with the region can almost track the travels of Charlotte and Mace as they run and track, hide and seek, within the environs. The mindset that crimes such as this only thrive within inner-city environments is not only false and misleading, but also dangerously dismissive, so novels like The Unrepentant that seek to expose the truth serve a vital purpose.
The Unrepentant is not a light-hearted read, but it is also not a depressing slog through a litany of horrible abuses. E. A. Aymar strikes the perfect balance between entertainment and education. E. A. Aymar’s The Unrepentant is one of those narratives that lingers in the mind long after the final pages are turned; one of those books that can and will make a difference.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.