The Wake-Up by Robert Ferrigno

File this under the better late than never category of books released in August not read until October. The Wake-Up is published by Pantheon, an imprint of Random House; Sonny Mehta is the editor and Sonny was on the day he signed Robert Ferrigno.

The Wake-Up tells the story of Frank Thorpe, an ex-Army ranger who needs a vacation. Frank was employed by ‘the shop’ a covert wing of US intelligence that takes an active interest in bad guys and gets up in their faces about it. Frank’s in LAX waiting for a flight to Miami when a hard charger collides with a kid sellling candy on the concourse; Frank witnesses the incident and it pisses him off. He follows the businessman outside where a blonde in a Porsche Carrera is providing airport duty. Frank gets a partial plate number and decides the business man needs a ‘wake-up,’ shop parlance for an attitude adjustment.

What angers Frank is the businessman’s utter disregard for the Latino boy he flattened with his briefcase; Frank’s got other problems. An assassin named The Engineer has caused the death of a woman that Frank was in love with; The Engineer has the same access and training Frank does, plus a three hundred pound gofer named Gregor.

The hard charger is an art dealer in a tony suburb of LA; he’s peddled a piece of pre-Columbian art to Clark and Missy, social climbers who own a string of surfer shops around the area. Frank attends a party thrown by Missy and plants his wake-up; maybe the art is just a copy. Maybe the hard charger ripped Missy off. Complications ensue as unintended consequences present themselves; the art dealer’s wife is a decent person and Missy isn’t your average suburbanite on the make. She’s dangerous and now she’s mad.

The balance of the novel follows Frank as he tries to balance the scales of immediate justice for the deserving while pursuing his inevitable resolution with The Engineer. Robert Ferrigno doesn’t miss a beat as his story unfolds; the stylish prose underscores the novel’s theme that while no good deed occurs in a vacuum, his characters self-sorts through small acts of courage or craven self-interest, depending on which side of the good and evil chasm they stand on. Frank’s instinct for understanding that distinction drives the plot; a strong moral compass guides Frank even through the mayhem his wake-up engenders.

The Wake-Up grabs you from the opening page, puts you in Frank’s world and holds you there until the story ends; it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. Go out and buy it.