Mini review: The River Panj by David Raterman

Author: David Raterman
Title: The River Panj
Genre: thriller
Form: e-book
Target audience: adults

Why I read it: I was contacted by the author and he was kind enough to offer me his book free of charge in exchange for an impartial review. That fact didn’t influence my opinion in any way.

The narration takes place during the 09/11 attack on the World Trade Center but the place of narration is not in America but on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan so in the very heart of darkness so to speak. A young American emergency relief worker, Derek Braun, all of a sudden finds himself in a very precarious situation. Not only his life is in grave danger, like that of all his Western colleagues, but his Tajik fiancée, Zarina, and one of his co-workers, Henry Ames, were abducted by unknown terrorists who, apparently, work closely with al-Qaida and also some corrupt Russian soldiers. Derek has to pay ransom of one million dollars if he wants to see  both kidnapping victims alive. He doesn’t have such an amount of money and nobody seems very interested in helping him. He decides to stay and find Zarina on his own against all odds. He can’t count on anybody and he is in a land of ruthless enemies – the Talibans – and a land where different mafias fight for their share in narco-business. Will it be his suicide mission? Will he prevent another  suicide mission in Chicago?
What I liked:
  • It was a gripping story with plenty of interesting details. It is obvious the author was there, saw horrible atrocities along with remnants of a great culture and decided to describe them. I am impressed that he knows Russian as it is a difficult language to learn.
  • I do agree that relief workers deserve more spotlight, facing really dangerous conditions, getting little recognition until there‘s a war or natural disaster of relevance to Americans and other Westerners. It’s good somebody thought and wrote about them.
  • We are shown here really difficult life of different people native of the Central Asia region. Some scenes were really gut-wrenching, like two pregnant women fighting for flour. It was eye-opening and it can put all your problems into a quite new perspective.
  • The political situation was described spot-on and the lack of help Derek faced was truly believable. That’s what usually happens when not important people are kidnapped by terrorists.
  • Clash of cultures is there, shown from both sides with all the ugly underbelly of human trafficking, drug smuggling and darker sides of American culture.
What I didn’t like:
  • The main characters were a bit too two-dimensional – I sympathized with the fate of Derek and Zarina but somehow they failed to move me deeply. I wish they could.
  • The narrative voice didn’t manage to keep me riveted to this book although the premise was interesting enough to make me finish it.
Final verdict:
I am glad I read this book but I wish it was better-written. The topic truly deserves it.
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15 Responses to Mini review: The River Panj by David Raterman

  1. Aurian says:

    Thanks for the review, and I am glad you did like it. But it is not a book for me, something this depressing and realistic. My main reason for reading is escaping into a fantasy, a romance.

  2. Hm, interesting. It doesn't sounds like something for me, but does have an interesting ring to it. 🙂 Thanks!

  3. Anachronist says:

    You are welcome, girls. If you find this depressing well, this is the world we live in…but I understand you. I sometimes escape as well.

  4. Tracy says:

    This one would tempt me, but I'd have to be in the right mood to read it. (I've yet to read a thriller where the characters weren't pretty two-dimensional – seems to go with the territory, for some weird reason)

  5. Anachronist says:

    I've noticed that much, Tracy. Thrillers tend to be rather plot-driven than character-driven, even those which are supposed to be "psychological" thrillers.

  6. It is an interesting topic. Too bad the characterization and the voice just didn't capture you. I think you need to connect to at least one character in a thriller.

  7. Anachronist says:

    Thanks Melissa for a visit – connecting to characters is also important to me. Of course the fact that I experienced some problems doesn't mean that other people will feel the same.

  8. Great honest review. I think topic is a great one that is not normally discussed. We often hear about the tragedy of 9/11 from the viewpoint of living in the U.S. but not having been somewhere else when it occurred. Sorry it wasn't a better read. But thanks for sharing as always.

  9. Anachronist says:

    You are perfectly right when it comes to the topic, Lena – thanks for a visit!

  10. It sounds good, but really depressing. I have a hard time with anything that's a little too sad. Especially realistically sad. I have a hard time when fictional vampires I love die, let a lone real people dying. Excellent review, Anachronist! :DJenIn the Closet With a Bibliophile

  11. Anachronist says:

    Thanks Jen. What could I say…reality can be pretty harsh but I shed no tears for vampires. They are already dead, after all. 😉

  12. Aarti says:

    Thanks for the honest review. I don't think I would enjoy this book as I am not into thrillers and really enjoy character-driven plots more than action-driven ones. So I'll avoid it, but I'm glad the author is getting some exposure!

  13. Anachronist says:

    Hi Aarti, thanks for a visit!

  14. I agree that there are not enough stories about the relief workers–the people who want to help things better. It sounds interesting. :)Shanan

  15. Anachronist says:

    Hi Shanan, thanks for your comment!

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