Beach Books

Bad Guys, Good Guys Grapple in World Chaos

The Beachcomber
Aug 29, 2013

In the prologue to Easy Squeezy, (Paul D’Ambrosio, Down The Shore Publishing, 2013) the year is 1974. Eight-year-old Barry watches as his Mafioso father is slain in a Toms River courtroom; he and his mother take refuge in the Witness Protection Program.

Chapter one is set in a future present in Egypt, two days before a presidential election. No word of Barry. A high-up drone destroys a tiny flash drive, fouling up an information transfer and uniting two mercenaries, the Russian Volya and the American known as “Commander,” in a quest for survival that will evolve into a mission to rescue the world from fiscal villains.

In chapter two, the election is over and a traumatized federal marshal named Tnias tells Sister Maris Stella, a psychologist, that she has shot the President of the United States.

How, you may well ask, will author D’Ambrosio pull together these three, disparate strains into a single, coherent narrative?

With difficulty.

Crammed into 195 pages, hosting a profusion of characters, shifting locales and an intricate plot, Easy Squeezy challenges even the most focused attention span.  The reward is an action-packed narrative that tracks and surprises.

Readers of the Asbury Park Press know D’Ambrosio as its investigations editor. He has an impressive collection of awards for hard-hitting probes into corruption, bureaucratic profiteering and ineptitude, questionable public policy and other New Jersey outrages.

In this novel, his second, D’Ambrosio displays another side, one characterized by a passion for sophisticated weaponry, a command of international economics and a taste for violent confrontations. These elements fuel a scenario set in a global dystopia brought about by a Great Economic Collapse that makes the 2008 Great Recession look like a blip on a bell curve. The bad guys are financial wizards seeking to profit from the remains of the shattered world economy.

In D’Ambrosio’s heated imagination, tiny Macedonia defaults on $10 billion of debt, precipitating a chain reaction that takes down nearly every economy in the world. The result:  “Tens of millions of layoffs. Tens of thousands of bankruptcies.  Nearly 5 billion across the globe tossed into poverty.”  In the United States the free money supply drops below $1 trillion, just $3,000 on average for everyone.

Occupy Wall Street gave us 99-percenters. D’Ambrosio gives us “Zeroites,” protestors whose net worth is zero.

That’s not all. An 8.1 earthquake in North Carolina has, in D’Ambrosio’s words,  “liquefied most of the state” and rippled to Washington, where it collapsed both the Capitol and the White House.

Swept up in this chaos, Volya and the Commander surmount gender and cultural difference to forge an alliance that borders on romance. By the novel’s conclusion, they have carried out their mission, Barry has played a leading role in the action, and Tnias is still standing. In short, D’Ambrosio has resolved the challenge of his opening with a resolution that darns together all the loose threads.

— Mary Walton

Mary Walton is the author of A Woman’s Crusade:  Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot. She resides in Ocean Grove.

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