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Six de­grees of sep­a­ra­tion. That, sup­pos­edly, is the so­cial dis­tance be­tween you and any given per­son on the planet. Your den­tist, for ex­am­ple, knows some­body who knows some­one who ... and pretty soon, you’re linked to a fa­mous sci­en­tist or Hol­ly­wood star. It’s a fun pas­time, that “Six De­grees” thing, and sur­pris­ingly easy to do, but in the new novel, “And West is West” by Ron Chil­dress, it could also be a deadly game.

Liv­ing with Zoe wasn’t orig­i­nally Ethan’s de­sire.

She’d stayed at his Man­hat­tan condo many times—they were a couple, af­ter all— but he was still sur­prised when he heard him­self ask her to move in, and equally sur­prised that she agreed. Yes, he loved her— which was some­thing he only truly re­al­ized just be­fore she left for a job in D.C.

Heart­bro­ken, Ethan turned to his other love: cod­ing for United Im­pe­rial Bank. For him, it was the per­fect job. UIB gave him an of­fice and the free­dom to write al­go­rithms to fol­low ter­ror­ists in or­der to fol­low the mar­kets, cre­at­ing se­ri­ous money for Ethan and for his em­ploy­ers. That, plus Zoe, could’ve made him happy.

Ex­cept Zoe was gone, and then some­one set Ethan up to fail at work and his job was gone, too. And just as he thought things were look­ing up, Zoe was dead and Ethan was left hold­ing the se­crets of her life that her par­ents couldn’t tell her.

It al­ways seemed as though Jes­sica Aldridge was run­ning. She ran away from her mother’s al­co­holism as a child. She ran away from fam­ily as a teen. She ran to the Air Force, where she be­came a highly trained drone pi­lot, but since a re­mote strike had gone hor­ri­bly wrong and some­one had to take the fall for it, she ran from that, too.

But Jes­sica had just been fol­low­ing or­ders then. Her real mis­take, she un­der­stood, was con­fid­ing her mis­giv­ings to the wrong per­son: her im­pris­oned fa­ther, whom she barely knew. She also un­der­stood that the gov­ern­ment wasn’t go­ing to take a breach of secu- rity lightly—and with the FBI on her tail, Jes­sica had to run again.

I have to ad­mit that I was no big fan of “And West is West” when I started it. Its first few pages were techier than I ex­pected, and I wasn’t in the mood for that. Woo, was I glad I stayed.

Once you get past the pro­logue, au­thor Ron Chil­dress takes you in a whole dif­fer­ent, un­ex­pected di­rec­tion with what seems like a pro­file of a psy­cho­log­i­cally flawed man. Ethan, in fact, is driven, in­de­ci­sive, and so very im­per­fect—which makes him the per­fect dis­trac­tion from the page-rip­ping thriller that is Jes­sica. It seems un­likely, then, that the two are con­nected, but you re­call that six de­grees stuff?

Yep, and it doesn’t even take that many steps. This is one of those keeps-you-up-at­night, miss-your-sub­way-stop kind of books that you’ll pass around to friends. It’s one to take to your book club. For sure, “And West is West” is a solid ten.

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