Genre: Adult Thriller
Publisher: Bettie Youngs Books
Release date: April 27 2012
Source: ARC from author
In a word: over-the-top, cringe-inducing, shocking and thrilling
When Lindy asked me to read and review Crashers, I was a little hesitant at first, because it’s not the type of story I usually enjoy reading. Accident fraud? It sounds boring, right? I was prepared to settle down with a very dry book about insurance companies, but what I got was something completely different. Crashers deals with the subject from the perspective of the perpetrators and the victims, and thrusts the reader into the ugly underbelly of the accident fraud business. This book turned out to be more of a horror story than a realistic tale of the corrupt people who make their money by cheating innocent people, and I was pleasantly surprised by this fact. But make no mistake: Crashers is not for the faint-of-heart. While I found myself greedily turning the pages as fast as possible, I did so with dread. Because the characters you will meet here are not necessarily the kind of people you want to be friends with.
Shari and Nathan are a young up-and-coming couple who live in trendy Studio City. Shari is a struggling student and works as a waitress while trying to save enough money to fund her student film project. Nathan is a successful stock broker who is about to be promoted at work (or so he thinks). Their future seems rosy, especially after Nathan proposes to Shari one night. But that happiness is short-lived when Nathan is suddenly fired from his job, accused of misappropriating funds from one of his clients. Knowing he’s been set up by a sleazy coworker, he has no choice but to resign from his job.
Shortly after, Shari also loses her job, but unfortunately for the couple, the worst is yet to come. Driving home after being fired, Shari gets in a fender-bender on the freeway, and she is unwittingly plunged into a horrible nightmare. Shari, you see, was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and has become an innocent player in a high-stakes game of accident fraud. Broke, desperate and terrified, Shari and Nathan are forced to choose between losing everything, or becoming players themselves in the big business of staging car accidents.
The author very smartly switches back and forth among all the different characters in the story, which not only builds the suspense, but paints a terrifying picture of just how complex this scheme seems to be. There’s the attractive and enigmatic Bryce who recruits Shari and Nathan, but has his own boss to deal with, a man who is trying to push him to do unthinkable things; Louise, a young detective who is hot on the trail of the accident fraud ring; Charlie, an innocent man who gets sucked into the game out of desperation; and John Nastic, the lawyer who facilitates the bogus lawsuits. This story is filled with larger-than-life characters that would do well on the big screen, and the cinematic quality of the story is probably due to Hudis’ film background.
What really worked in this book, and what I loved, was the pacing and tension of the story. Reading Crashers is like watching a bad car accident: you’re afraid to look, but you just can’t help it. Hudis keeps the reader turning pages by ending her chapters in such a way that you’re compelled to keep going. Most of the time I thought the dialog was well done and believable, but there were times when it veered off and became clichéd and stiff (but in the author’s defense, even the clichéd dialog seemed to fit with the exaggerated story). According to Hudis, driving in L.A. is one of the most dangerous things you can do. The story focuses on continuous bumper-to-bumper traffic, angry road rage-fueled drivers, and frequent car accidents, not to mention a city filled with people losing their jobs from the bad economy and desperate folks from all walks of life who will seemingly do anything to get by, even lie, cheat and kill. Crashers has a doom-and-gloom mentality that bothered me at first, but I did get caught up in the drama and was able to put that negativity aside for the sake of the story.
And you really do have to suspend your disbelief. It was hard to believe that two upstanding citizens like Shari and Nathan would become so desperate that they would agree to participate in criminal activity. Shari in particular was a tough character for me. I honestly hated her, as she went from a sweet and innocent girl who has a positive attitude about the future, to a completely out-of-character criminal who takes up smoking, cheats on her fiancé, and in a short period of time, becomes addicted to staging car accidents.
I live in Los Angeles and I’ve driven on the L.A. freeways for years. I know what Hudis is talking about when she describes the frustrating conditions of trying to commute in this city. I know accident fraud is real and is probably happening as I write this, but I hope it’s not as prevalent as the author makes it out to be. And although I might not share the angry attitude of her characters, she’s taken a facet of city life and blown it up into a rollicking story that works despite the “ick” factor. You may never want to drive again after reading Crashers, but I can guarantee you won’t be able to stop reading until the final, horrifying page.