In the southern New England woods, Eugene Sibbs, descended from an old Yankee line, has nothing left but a few acres, the bunker-like house he has built, and daring ruthlessness. Determined to take control of his world and rise through crime, he likes to drag along his teenage son, Nickie, as his unwilling accomplice. His wife, Vi, who relates to him best through drugs and sex, does not want to know what is going on.
At turns, pastoral, violent, and sexual, NEVER A SOLDIER builds through a series of murders until someone in the family decides Eugene must be stopped.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I usually don’t read crime novels, although I’ve seen quite a few movies of that type. But knowing Paul Allen’s work, I knew this book would be different, and it is. This is a crime and coming of age novel but one purely for adults. It is a book in the realistic tradition, rough, raw, violent and sexual, but also lyrical with a palpable setting and atmosphere that envelopes the story and its characters in a bucolic place in the New England woods west of Providence near the Connecticut border. Eugene, the father, the criminal, likes to take his teenage son, Nickie, along on his crimes, and uses the boy to cultivate his marijuana grove back in the forest. Nickie is actually a good boy and in the process of being destroyed by Eugene. His mother, Vi, seems comfortable enough at home with her head stuck in the sand about what Eugene is up to. Eugene is a brutal, pathological criminal who mows lawns for a living when he isn’t stealing, running drugs or killing somebody. The violence and tension make for drama. The novel is called a thriller, and it is, because we’re always wondering what Eugene is going to do next. The family lives in fear of the man, and they and we remain on edge. The crime story takes place in the context of petty Mafia figures who are interested in killing or extorting from Eugene until he decides he will eliminate the threat by the most gruesome, shocking means. After one of the roughest rides you might imagine for this swamp Yankee family, there is something of a happy and satisfying ending for most concerned. I liked this book very much, I think because it has more complexity and depth than most crime thriller stories. It is unpredictable because Eugene is unpredictable, and in its own way, beautiful because of the masterfully wrought setting, the stunning descriptive writing, the crisp and true dialogue, and the humanity of its protagonists as well as the inhumanity of its antagonists. It will be difficult for me to decide which of Paul Allen’s books I like best. For me, both the boy, Nickie, and his monstrous father, Eugene, will remain unforgettable.