Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Livia Lone"

Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA's Directorate of Operations, then worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center along the way. Eisler's bestselling thrillers have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year, have been included in numerous "Best Of" lists, and have been translated into nearly twenty languages.

Eisler applied the Page 69 Test to his new thriller, Livia Lone, and reported the following:
From page 69:
During the days, she never left her side. And when the men came with food and water, Livia made sure to stay as far to the back of the box as possible. When she heard the bolts scraping open, she would stand Nason up and gently ease her against the wall, then position herself in front of her. That way, if the men tried to grab Nason, Livia could see it coming and fight them. She didn’t have the can top anymore, and the men had been opening the cans themselves and keeping the tops since Livia had cut them. But she still had her teeth. She could leap at them, and bite their noses and ears and lips.

But the men must have known what she was thinking. One morning, they came in and began handing out food from the back of the box, rather than from the front where they usually positioned themselves. Dirty Beard stood to Livia’s left and Square Head to her right while Skull Face stayed in front of the door. She felt something was wrong, that they were trying to trick her, and as she swept her head from one side to the other, trying to watch both men at once, Dirty Beard stepped in and grabbed her hair. She screamed and twisted toward him, terrified they were going to take Nason again. Square Head gripped her shoulders from behind and pulled her to the floor. Panic surged through her and she squirmed to her stomach and tried to bring her knees forward. But one of the men knelt on her back, pinning her to the ground. She grabbed for Nason’s ankle, as though she could fuse them together and stop the men from pulling them apart. There was a sting in her neck, and all at once her limbs felt heavy, too heavy to move. The weight on her back seemed to spread all over her body, as though she was under the box instead of inside it.

“Little bird,” she whispered, and then she was gone.
I think I got lucky here—page 69 provides a solid microcosm of who Livia is and what drives her behavior throughout the book.

On a superficial level, Livia Lone is a story about revenge. But on a deeper, and more important level, the story is about love. You can see that love on page 69, where Livia, only 13 years old, is almost oblivious to danger to herself, and intent only on protecting her traumatized little sister from another assault by the men who have trafficked them from Thailand.

The world, a mentor explains to Livia later in the story, after she has been rescued and is intent on finding her missing sister, is made of three kinds of people—sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Sheep are ordinary people, obviously, while wolves are predators. Sheepdogs, though—soldiers, police, firefighters—while fanged like wolves, possess an instinct not for predation, but rather for protection.

Livia is a born sheepdog. Someone with a deep-seated, hard-wired need to protect—albeit a need tuned by trauma to the level of obsession.

Because what happens to a person who is so wired for protection—not just in general, but in particular for the little sister she adores—when as a child her ability to protect is so horrifically ripped away from her?

That sheepdog might start protecting the flock not just by warding off the wolves. But by hunting down the wolves. And killing them.

Which is why the page 69 test works so well for this book. It shows us Livia’s most fundamental character trait: that need to protect. It shows some of what twisted that trait into a need to not just to investigate sex crimes, but to avenge them. It sets up her transition from child child victim to accomplished cop. And it hints at what becomes her defining obsession: finding the little sister she tried so desperately to protect, but couldn’t.
Visit Barry Eisler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue