A thirty something suburban housewife and ex-police recruit is in a hotel bar in the big city waiting for a girlfriend so she can vent over a quarrel she has had with her husband. While she waits a cute young man does what cute young men in hotel bars can be expected to do. He tries to pick her up. And when her friend stands her up, he succeeds. She goes up to his room. There is a little groping, but before anything serious can happen she has second thoughts and begs off. She goes into the bathroom to freshen up, and then her life changes forever. While she gets herself straightened up, she hears voices in the room, and the next thing she knows is witnessing the young man’s murder, and caught up in a mess involving corrupt federal agents, Mexican drug cartels, and gun running. And perhaps worst of all, she finds herself accused of the young man’s murder.
Andrew Gross’s No Way Back is a classic tale of the ordinary everyday person caught up in an extraordinary set of events, and discovering in themselves the strength and capacity to deal with them. That Wendy Gould, the heroine, has this latent ability is somewhat credible since she had been trained in law enforcement, and it also allows her some access to friends from her past who might be able to help her. Still, some of her exploits in the course of the novel, most especially her ability to convince people who don’t know her — but who know that she has been accused of two murders and government agents are chasing her — to help. This is the kind of tale that requires a good deal of disbelief suspension, and Gross doesn’t always manage to get the job done.
As Wendy sets about proving her innocence, her story is tied to a young Mexican woman who is working as a governess for the children of a Connecticut lawyer and his wife. She, it turns out, is living in fear of a Mexican drug lord who has been killing off her brothers and sisters after her father agreed to testify against him. Convinced that all this has something to do with the young man’s murder, Wendy joins forces with the lawyer and the governess to pursue the truth.
Once a reader is able to accept the basic premises of the plot, the narrative moves quickly and provides the usual twists and turns you’d expect from a conventional thriller. There are one or two hiccups along the way — some of the chronology of events at the beginning could be clarified, and Wendy’s ability to get along for quite some time without much cash is hard to believe — but once you buy into the story, they are less bothersome.
No Way Back is a workman like narrative. It will keep you entertained, if not always surprised. And while its deus ex machine ending may not be all that satisfactory for some readers, most will have expected something of the sort.