Book Review: The Survivors by Robert Palmer—and a Giveaway!

The SurvivorsThe Survivors
A Cal Henderson Novel #1
Robert Palmer
Seventh Street Books, October 2015
ISBN 978-1-63388-082-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Psychologist Cal Henderson has a successful practice in Washington, DC, and big plans for the future. But he can’t escape a terrible secret. When he was a boy, his mother murdered his father and two brothers and severely wounded Cal’s best friend, Scottie Glass. Desperate to keep the nightmare at bay, Cal has turned his back on everything that happened that night.

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the killings, Scottie shows up at Cal’s office—edgy, paranoid, but somehow still the loveable kid he once was. Though their lives have taken very different paths, they both believe Cal’s mother couldn’t have been a murderer. She loved them too much, no matter what dark place she found herself in. They set off to dig up the real story.

Cal uncovers one shocking secret after another about his family.  The trail leads to a shady defense contractor, a scheming US Attorney, and, ultimately a billionaire with the kind of power and connections that can only be found in Washington.  But Cal is paying a price.  The memories he has avoided for so long have come flooding back, sending him into a tailspin from which he may never recover.

It’s not often that I feel the need to take issue with other reviews but this is one of those times when I feel compelled to because I disagree with some of them quite a bit. First, the use of both first and third person point of view is a very minor thing; first person is used for the bulk of the story and third only for the prologue and epilogue and the switch is not, in my opinion, out of place. (If you’re a reader who heartily dislikes prologues, that’s another issue but I contend that it makes complete sense in this particular story.)

Then there’s the notion that the writing is stilted and contains too much telling as opposed to showing, too little action and suspense, too much talking. Put simply, I just didn’t see it that way at all. Yes, there’s a good bit of talk but these men are trying to get to the bottom of a 25-year-old tragedy and that kind of investigating necessitates a lot of talking to each other and to the people they track down during their probe. By its very nature, sleuthing has to involve a lot of discussion unless it’s one lone cowboy who talks only to himself. Also, I’ve always thought that first person POV, as popular as it is these days, is somewhat limiting in that the reader can only experience what the narrator tells or shows him and some of that has to be at a distance because the narrator isn’t present during all the action. For instance, in this case, there’s a scene in which a body is being pulled out of the water. Cal wasn’t there when the body went in so of course all he can do is tell us; he can’t let us see what happened.

Finally, there’s the thought that Cal is unemotional. All I can say to that is of course he is! After all, he’s spent most of his life holding in his emotions, for good reason, so he’s not going to suddenly let loose now. If anything, he has to be even more guarded because he feels the need to look out for Scottie who is a complete mess and highly likely to get himself and Cal into serious trouble.

I do think there are some flaws in Mr. Palmer‘s debut, especially the flatness of some of the secondary characters. On the other hand, I found Cal and Scottie to be rather compelling, particularly in the vastly different ways they have coped with their terrible past. Scottie would get on anyone’s nerves and I thought Cal’s choice of profession is what allowed these two men to come together with a common goal. Their attempts to rebuild their childhood trust were as appealing to me as the mystery itself. And just incidentally, that mystery is full of twists and turns and not everything is resolved. I don’t mean that we’re left with a cliffhanger, just that not everything gets tied up in pretty little bows and that’s OK with me. I’ll be looking forward to seeing more of Cal and perhaps some of the other characters.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2015.


To enter the drawing for a print
copy of The Survivors by Robert
Palmer, leave a comment below.
Two winning names will be drawn
Thursday evening, October 22nd. One
will receive an advance reading copy
and one will receive a finished copy.
This drawing is open to residents
of the US and Canada.


28 thoughts on “Book Review: The Survivors by Robert Palmer—and a Giveaway!

  1. Lelia; thanks for the candid review—I can always count on you. I am curious about this book and thanks for offering another giveaway.


  2. The storyline of this book has me hooked. My kind of a read and such an interesting topic. Thanks for the chance to get to read it.


  3. I appreciate your honest and detailed review. It helps decide what to read when there are so many great books out there. Thanks for the chance to win!


  4. The review was good. I have been writing a switch between first person and third person in my work in progress. I use it to separate a time in the past from the present. I’m not sure I’ll pull it off, but I’ve seen it done many times where it worked well. The story sound intriguing.


    • That will work ( changing the point of view)—-it’s good to give one protagonist first person, and another third person.
      The way you are managing it—chronologic sounds interesting.


    • Yes, you can count on this blog that reviews are honest and present pros and cons and personal opinions. I feel reassured whenever I visit.


  5. I admire it when someone takes a stand against the norm and points out the flaws in what others are saying or how they are judging a book. Thanks for doing that. It helps me think about what I want to read and why I’d want to read the book – which I do.


  6. Loved your review and love the sound of this book. Every now and again, I find I’m at odds with what the majority of reviewers write and that’s OK. I like what I like and they like what they like. 🙂
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal – Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews


  7. I think your review is accurate and I really like Cal. Of course he’s unemotional. That’s how he copes. Scottie would get on my nerves but then it’s understandable he’s the way he is. I’m interested to see your other character development. I’m glad there’ll be more of Cal coming


  8. Your review is a reminder that readers respond individually to books, and any review is only one reader’s response and interpretation. I personally was glad to come across this because I feel that sometimes reviewers are too busy showing off in a review and forget that their job is to convey the nature of the book. At the end is the place to give a judgment, after the reader has a sense of the book.


  9. You reacted to a reaction and gave a much deeper analysis of the story. By discussing and refuting another reviewer’s comments you brought out parts of the book that may be problematic for some readers…and said they weren’t problematic for you. This gives readers a good tool to estimate their own interests.


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