Panic Attack
Jason Starr
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Buy *Panic Attack* by Jason Starr online

Panic Attack
Jason Starr
336 pages
August 2009
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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A traumatic event happens to a New York family, a home invasion robbery gone wrong. In a panic, psychologist Adam Bloom grabs his licensed gun to protect his wife and twenty-two-year-old daughter, sure they are in mortal danger.

As the intruder creeps up the stairs, Adam fires. Wrenched with panic, he fires until his gun is empty and a man lies sprawled dead on the stairs. Adam thinks the man is reaching for a gun but soon learns his error. Meanwhile, a second intruder flees. An incident that might bring a happy family closer together has the opposite affect on the Blooms.

A marriage with visible cracks sustains more damage; a strained relationship with a daughter searching for identity by rebellion gets more severe; and Adam Bloom, who believes himself a hero, learns instead that the public views him as an out-of-control vigilante, the object of sensational news reports, labeled the next Bernie Goetz.

With this one fatal confrontation, a robbery gone bad, Starrís tale runs off the tracks into unexplored territory. Then the Bloomís housekeeper is shot in the face, perhaps the only link to those involved in the robbery. None of the authorís protagonists are likeable, distracted by self-concerns and the troubled relationships that plague a contemporary family.

Adam turns from hero to villain, Dana from dissatisfied wife to active resentment, Marissa from self-centered college graduate to whining victim who chafes at the notoriety thrust upon her by her fatherís impulsive action. One nightís chaos escalates at the hands of an angry robber, a man determined to exact revenge for the slaying of his fumbling partner in crime.

Like an Internet virus, events run amok, the Blooms splinter, and their quasi-peaceful lives are shattered by a moment of unexpected violence. Starrís writing is akin to grunge cacophony, increasingly louder as havoc rains upon the household. Welcome to the modern family in the age of technology.

Starrís writing isnít particularly literary or well-plotted, rather a helter-skelter mix of events that smack of reality show moments, an MTV treatment complete with violent soundtrack. With unnerving instinct he captures the disconnections of life today, of families too busy to pay attention to one another and of a society obsessed with sensationalism and outrage.

Nuances are irrelevant in this brave new world where impulse and immediate gratification rule over thoughtfulness and logic, a mosh pit of self-interest and rage where action trumps thought. Starr captures the vigilantism endemic to the American spirit in a country glutted with weapons and scornful of the Golden Rule. The ending will shock, or, if you are cynical enough, maybe it wonít. Welcome to urban noir.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2009

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