Writing an acerbic, tightly paced thriller is no small feat. First time authors tend to get caught in the heavy plodding of trendy themes, opting to please the masses instead of creating something innovative and original. Fortunately, Nyong Atkins’ smooth Breach manages to avoid the pitfalls of staid genre conventions.
The story itself has an anti-hero, the first indication that the reader is in for some type of subversion of the thriller style of writing. Chris Greaves, our titular protagonist, is a modern-day man. Switching life preferences based on what happens to be particularly contemporary on that day, Greaves wouldn’t really stand out in a crowd for his barbaric looks or his tenacity for starting fights. Nope – this dude likes the finer things in life, and just so happens to be a killer, just not the cold-blooded kind.
His services are available on consignment, and is highly sought. He’s that good at what he does. Atkins makes Greaves out be such a smooth operator that the reader can’t help but like him, despite his questionable mode of generating income. Because thrillers rely upon a conflict between the powers of good and evil, Greaves soon meets the unconventional Ella, as much as an anti-love interest as Greaves is an anti-hero. She’s a filmmaker who wants to document Greaves’ profession, in all of its literal guts and sometimes glory. Cue conflict.
What transpires is a tightly written plot that holds characters responsible for their actions, whether in a positive projection or not. The characters’ inwards contemplation on their lot and life is mingled with a mystery that takes the reader to the less glamorous locations in America. Successful stories, for me at least, tend to merge several genres into one cohesive whole. Nyong Atkins does so in Breach with all the bells and whistles, and still manages to provide a commentary on the quest for redemption, even if that sordid quest in paved with good intentions.