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Dark Site: A Sam Dryden Novel

Review

Dark Site: A Sam Dryden Novel

It has been four years since the last Sam Dryden thriller by Patrick Lee, SIGNAL, was published. It nonetheless remains one of my favorites. One reason is that it contains the most confounding and ingenious opening chapters that one is likely to encounter in a contemporary work of literature. We are now blessed with the release of DARK SITE, the long-awaited and eagerly anticipated third novel in the series. As with its predecessors, it succeeds on all levels.

Sam Dryden is a former special forces operative who now seeks to do nothing more or less than buy, refurbish and resell old houses in the great Los Angeles area. He makes a good living doing it and can see constructive results. Something always gets in his way, though, and it doesn’t take long for that “something” --- in the form of an armed assailant who makes it clear that Dryden will leave with him, either dead or alive --- to manifest itself. Dryden eliminates the threat, but in a very unique and believable way discovers that a woman named Danica Ellis is also in danger from the same people. He immediately stops what he is doing and in due course initiates a rescue.

"If you enjoy unusual novels that gently straddle genres and leave you wondering what is going to happen next with almost no hope of guessing correctly, then you need some Patrick Lee in your life."

Dryden and Danica cannot figure out why they have been targeted or by whom. They are the same age, but neither knows the other, so they set out to try to determine what they possibly could have in common. The only clue, at least initially, is a document that Danica’s stepfather has given to her. Dryden recognizes it as a “scrub file,” which is a record of what someone knew prior to their memories being chemically destroyed. While the scrub file does not have their names on it --- the subjects are identified only by code numbers --- reference is made to the subjects having witnessed events at a secret military site in the now-abandoned town of Ashland, Iowa, in 1989. Dryden and Danica recall living in Ashland at the time, when they were 12 years old, though neither remembers the other.

They are both wrong, of course, and what Lee does in this wondrously imaginative novel is jump back and forth in time between the present (September 2018) and the past (July 1989), resulting in the reader knowing more (though not everything) than the protagonist does throughout most of the book. It is an extremely strong plot device, utilized in the hands of a master. The story moves along quite quickly, so even with the breaks in time that occur here, there is simply no good place to stop reading.

There are multiple ticking clocks, even in the past. What is unknown could fill a couple of books. In the present, there is the “who” that wants to abduct Dryden and Danica, the “what” that concerns what they are trying to conceal and the “why,” while the same questions --- with possibly the same answers --- continue to play out in the past. It’s a clever, smart story, with the only disappointment being that it’s not twice as long.

DARK SITE reminded me by turns of the works of Blake Crouch and Lee Child, as well as the television series “Stranger Things.” At its heart, though, it is all Patrick Lee. If you enjoy unusual novels that gently straddle genres and leave you wondering what is going to happen next with almost no hope of guessing correctly, then you need some Patrick Lee in your life. This book is a terrific place to start.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 7, 2019

Dark Site: A Sam Dryden Novel
by Patrick Lee

  • Publication Date: May 28, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 125003079X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250030795