- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleOur Review
Trauma Within the Witness "Destruction" Program
The Program is Stephen White's ninth novel, and it offers a slight but effective departure from the main line of his career. Like his previous eight novels, The Program features White's recurring protagonist, clinical psychologist Alan Gregory. Unlike those earlier books, this one casts Gregory as a supporting player in a larger drama, a drama involving a woman on the run, an assortment of professional hit men, and the unnatural pressures of day-to-day life in the Witness Protection Program.
The woman on the run is Kirsten Lord, a New Orleans-based D.A. who successfully prosecutes a local drug dealer for a series of rapes, then finds herself threatened with violent reprisals. "Remember this," the dealer tells her on the day of his conviction. "Every precious thing I lose, you will lose two." Several weeks later, that grim prophecy begins to come true, as Kirsten's husband is shot to death. Shortly afterward, when an unknown woman nearly succeeds in abducting her daughter, Kirsten enters the Witness Security Program (WITSEC) and attempts to establish a new, anonymous existence in Boulder, Colorado.
White excels at conveying the tension, trauma, and sense of dislocation inherent in shedding the remnants of an old life and beginning a new one. Kirsten Lord (now Peyton Francis) finds herself facing a particularly complex set of circumstances. To begin with, her previous history as an outspoken critic of WITSEC's policies has earned her a number of enemies within the program itself. In addition, her belated efforts to halt the execution of an innocent man -- a man she helped convict -- make her the target of a vicious killer with an undisclosed agenda of his own. Throughout all this, the initial threat that drove her into hiding remains in force, looming relentlessly over the narrative.
The Program recounts, with considerable authority, one woman's struggle to make her way through this minefield of possibilities to a place of potential safety. Along the way, she finds a number of unexpected allies, including Alan Gregory, her program-appointed therapist; Lauren Crowder, Alan's very pregnant wife; and Carl Luppo, a retired Mafia hit man who takes Kirsten under his wing and saves her life on more than one occasion. White handles these various elements with an easy, understated mastery and treats his heroine's dilemma with intelligence, humor, and sympathy. The result is an incisive, psychologically acute thriller that successfully illuminates a little-known corner of the criminal justice system. It clearly represents a large step forward for a gifted, underrated writer.
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has recently been published by Subterranean Press .