The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

By Ekta R. Garg

Genre: Thriller

Rating: Bypass it / 2 stars

When a woman’s husband dies under suspicious circumstances, she doesn’t stick around to offer the police any answers. Instead she runs, knowing she needs to stay away from the law. An incident from her past sent her into hiding; her husband’s death compels her to stay there. Before she knows it, however, she finds herself heading back to her hometown where she’ll need to face tough questions. Author Lisa Lutz offers readers the promise of a thriller but doesn’t deliver on that promise in the almost farcical novel The Passenger.

The day Tanya Dubois finds her husband dead at the bottom of the stairs, she knows she doesn’t have a choice. She has to leave town. Once the police arrive, they’ll start asking her questions and she has no solid proof to offer them that she didn’t kill her husband. All she has is her word, and that may not be enough—especially considering she’s had a serious run-in with the law in the past. So Tanya packs her things and leaves the state.

She searches for a new identity and thinks she’s found one as Amelia, but in her first stop when she runs into a bartender with a sharp eye Tanya knows Amelia won’t work. The bartender, Blue, turns out to be a good friend and a necessary resource for Tanya to succeed in disappearing again. With Blue’s help Tanya becomes Debra and starts teaching at a small private school.

Life seems to start resembling normal, but an unexpected visitor sets Tanya running again. She finds herself wandering from location to location until she receives word that it might be safe for her to go home. But going home means facing the circumstances that sent her running in the first place, and it means staring down the people who put her on that path. Tanya doesn’t know if she’s ready for either.

Author Lisa Lutz doesn’t do her main character justice. Protagonist Tanya tells readers she’s been on the run for a long time. If that’s the case, the way she fumbles after her husband’s death doesn’t make sense. For someone who has spent so much time hiding, she does a lousy job of staying under the radar.

Blue’s purpose in the story is ambiguous at best. When Tanya needs some sort of concrete advice and guidance, Blue shows up. For the majority of the story, though, she disappears, coming back only in the end for a clumsy resolution. Without Blue Tanya’s plans flounder and ultimately fail. Lutz could have followed Blue’s story instead and found a more compelling character and story as a result.

As the story progresses, readers will find themselves yanked from situation to situation with no warning—one minute Tanya is walking down the street and talking to someone. Within a few steps she’s fighting for her life. Then she’s on the road again but without a plan or any indication that she can handle the life she’s pursuing.

Tanya’s reason for leaving her hometown in the first place, too, seems forced. Mysterious email correspondence and shady phone calls between Tanya and an unknown character all hint at some dramatic, horrific past. Readers will ultimately be disappointed, first at the revelation of the reason for Tanya leaving and then at the way the characters react to everything. In the end it seems like Tanya spent all those years running for not very much.

I recommend readers Bypass The Passenger.

(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)