The Passenger by Lisa Lutz (March 1, Simon & Schuster)-When Tanya Dubois discovers her husband at the bottom of the stairs, dead, instead of calling the cops, she runs. She didn’t kill him, but she sees this opportunity to reinvent herself once again. After all, Tanya’s been on the run for 10 years, but readers won’t know why until the last third of the book, although she does drop a few hints throughout the narrative. Anyway, she meets a bartender named Blue, who seems to recognize a fellow woman on the run, and she provides Tanya, now Amelia, with a place to stay, but it’s not without strings, and Amelia soon finds herself crossing some lines she never thought she’d cross. She proves terrifyingly capable of getting by using someone else’s identity, and following Tanya/Amelia as she runs from the law, and herself, is a journey you won’t want to look away from.
Amelia narrates her own story, and it’s interspersed with emails that give clues to why she ran in the first place. It’s a clever bit of storytelling, and it’s hard not to root for her as she takes on different personas in order to survive, and find some kind of peace in the chaos of her life. I love how Lutz captures the spirit of each town she stops in by the bars that she visits. It’s almost like a travelogue of small town dives, with a smart, very determined woman at the wheel, and of course, danger lurking around every corner. Trust is not something that Tanya/Amelia/Emma/Debra gives lightly, and that makes the small acts of kindness that she encounters even more poignant. The tension is always palpable and our heroine can never let her guard down, her sadness and weariness of her situation always simmering under the surface. Most of us could only hope to be that strong. The journey is rewarding in itself, but the conclusion brings everything together, and if you think you know where it’s going, you may be surprised in the end. I was. Even better, Lutz throws in some of her trademark, deadpan humor, although it gets pretty dark at times. The Passenger is a fast-paced, intelligent thriller featuring a fascinating, clever heroine. I dare you to not read it in one sitting. If you haven’t discovered Lisa Lutz, here’s a great place to start!