I am a sucker for a good thriller and a good title. When I got an advanced reading copy of “The Rented Mule” by Bobby Cole, I was immediately intrigued by the title. I had never read anything by Cole before but I started the novel hoping that the story would live up to the interest that the title sparked.
From the outside, Cooper Dixon appeared to have the perfect life. He not only was the co-founder of a successful business on the verge of a sale that would make him a rich man, he had a beautiful wife and a couple kids. The truth of the matter is that Cooper is very unhappy in his marriage and his life and is on the verge of succumbing to the advances of a beautiful woman that has her sights set on him as a potential father for her son. What Cooper does not know is that his partner is looking for a way to block him from getting his fair share of the sale of the company in order to pay his own gambling debts while the potential object of his affection, Brooke, is being stalked by her crazy ex-husband.
When Cooper’s wife is kidnapped and Cooper is framed for the crime, it is obvious that someone is trying to destroy Cooper’s life. With so many parties that would profit from Cooper’s fall from grace, finding the mastermind behind the kidnapping is no easy task. Unfortunately for Cooper, he is left to try and solve the mystery by himself after both the police and the media place the blame on his shoulders and he becomes a wanted man.
“The Rented Mule” started out strong with the author juggling multiple story elements that immediately caught my attention and built the tension in the story. The setup was handled almost perfectly and the story flowed smoothly up to the kidnapping. The only thing that did not sit well with me was that the group of kidnappers was a little over the top but that did not bother me too much as they really were secondary characters to the main plot of the story. I found the first half of the book to be a compelling read that was reminiscent of some of John Grisham’s early books and I immediately found myself pulled into the story and drawn along with anticipation of what the next page would bring.
Many of those same multiple story elements are what slowed down the second half of the novel. It almost seemed that Cole had too many ideas for this story and introduced too many loose ends into the story that kept it from reaching its full potential. There were times in the story that it felt like it was drawn out a little too much as well as some things that were introduced in the story (such as the “haunted” house aspect) that were extraneous and remained unexplained even though they were brought up more than once. This frustrated me a little bit as it almost seemed like I was missing something when in fact there just was nothing more there. I still liked this book a lot and would recommend it to my fans of thrillers but I was disappointed that the book just did not seem to reach its full potential. Regardless, this is a better than average thriller and I would definitely try some of Cole’s other works based on this novel.
I would like to give a special thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for this advanced reading copy. “The Rented Mule” is scheduled to be released on March 1, 2014.