Chris Stout holds an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. His short fiction has appeared in the anthologies "Thou Shalt Not" (2006 by Dark Cloud Press) and "Sails and Sorcery" (2007 by Fantasist Enterprises). "Days of Reckoning" is his first novel.
Days of Reckoningby Chris Stout
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“Days of Reckoning” is an action thriller. Miranda Leider is a young police officer looking for answers in her brother's death. In the process, she uncovers a deadly plot that reaches to the top of her department. Both hunter and hunted, she soon learns that the only difference between justice and revenge is which side of the gun you're on.
- Christopher Stout
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From the sexy femme fatale to the ever-escalating body count to the damaged and misguided morality of the anti-hero, DAYS reminded me of a dark plot that Tarantino would be proud of. A tough, but feminine, Miranda Leider not only keeps the action moving, she also makes you feel guilty for wanting her to succeed. I could identify with certain aspects of Miranda's personality, like the over-protective instincts of an older sister warping into blind vengeance. How Stout challenged me most as a reader was the way Miranda acted on her intense emotions. I had to remember to see her motives through her eyes and her morality, not mine. My favorite character was Sam Connor--he's the kind of guy that makes you feel safe and makes you fall in love with him without meaning to. Though he's very alpha male--police officer who's ex-military and takes a couple of poundings in the book--Sam is smart and nurturing. His steady nature complements Miranda's emotionally-charged disposition. It helps that there's a sexual tension between them from the start. Without giving too much away, I will say that, in true Tarantino fashion, the villains were despicable and deserved their bloody deaths. Fans of Tim O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods or Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard will recognize that same struggle as a reader routing for a damaged and misguided (bad) good guy, or in this case girl.
If an award is ever given for the most action-packed book of the year, Days of Reckoning should be among the nominees. The story blasts from beginning to end, leaving this reader afraid to put it aside for fear it might keep going without her. The body count is high and the violence level not for the faint-hearted, but it's neither graphic nor gratuitous, and the hint of a romance between the two main characters adds a bittersweet undertone to what could have been just another anti-hero thriller. Miranda Leider is tougher than her little brother, Justin, and fiercely protective. When he's bullied and abused at summer camp, she sees him safely off the premises then exacts a ferocious revenge, carefully arranged to leave her blameless. But the two children know what really happened, and the ugly bond formed between them is one they can never outgrow nor leave behind. Fifteen years later, Miranda's a junior police officer in Sparta, Ohio, and Justin's hanging out with an Appalachian militia company. When his month-dead body is found in a fallow field, an apparent suicide, she knows something's wrong. Justin had problems, but he'd never kill himself. The police chief gives Miranda time away from the office for grieving, but she spends it investigating her brother's final days, locating the militiamen who last saw him alive, exercising her penchant for violence, and repeating her protective sins of the past. Sam Connor is a Sparta PD detective, smarting from a vindictive divorce and hiding his attraction for the Charlie's Angel Miranda. With her on compassionate leave, he's holding the office when bodies start falling in the small college town. As the count rises and the whirlwind investigation draws closer to the brutal serial killer, Sam must face the reality of who he's hunting before the target falls on him. Chris Stout's writing is bare and crisp, almost minimalist. The sparse description sometimes leaves the reader adrift in time and space, depending upon plotline and pacing to propel the story through such vacuums. Technical details are Clancy perfect, but the absence of background description extends here, as well, leaving the reader wondering how a MAC-11 feels against the shooter's hands as it's fired on full automatic. An added sentence or even a phrase in places could have deepened the reader's experience, but might also have interfered with the overwhelming rush of the story. Stout's decision to keep the writing lean might have been the proper one. Editing is a dying art and all books produced these days have some level of typos. Days of Reckoning is no exception, and there are also a few continuity issues that have no significant bearing upon the story. One unfortunately distracting feature of this early e-pub manuscript, however, are formatting errors, where misplaced paragraph indentations sometimes slow the story's flow (Kindle version, can't answer for the Nook). Hopefully as the technology advances, such issues will vanish, leaving the story as compelling as the writer designed it.