David Klein
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Buy *Stash* by David Klein online

David Klein
384 pages
July 2010
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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A cogent reminder of the perilous nature of drug abuse, the smoky tendrils of anxiety delicately waft through the pages of Klein's debut novel. Gwen Raine, a happily married suburban mother of two, can’t quite believe that she’s meeting her old boss, Jude Gates, at his flashy downtown restaurant. Gwen is tense and anxious - not just because she thinks she might be rekindling a friendship with Jude, but because she’s underhandedly scoring a stash of marijuana from Jude for five hundred bucks.

As she looks at the unlawful treasures contained in Jude’s large brown paper bag, all she can think of is the four days at the lake house with her husband, Brian, and the kids. Gwen is fulfilled in her life and role as mother, wife and community volunteer, but lately she’s been needing a break from the intimate routines of errands and bills and managing school schedules. As Gwen decides to spend a few hours alone in the isolated trails of Thacher Park, relaxing with a few hits off a joint before she goes to pick up the kids, a steel door suddenly slams in her face.

Buried beneath the aftermath of a tragic car accident, Gwen faces some grim news, coupled with a warrant from Detective William Keller authorizing a blood sample. Thank god Brian is so composed and helpful as he gravitates between a silent blend of sympathy and anger. Huddled together with Roger, their trusted lawyer and friend, Gwen and Brian must find away to limit the collateral damage from Gwen's giant lapse in judgment. Morrissey is a progressive, liberal town, but there are still rules: mothers who serve as PTA vice-presidents but get arrested on drug charges just don't belong in the mix.

Graphic and crisp with an edgy, contemporary feel, Klein accomplishes much in his novel. The Raine family getaway is postponed, given the fact that the marijuana found in Gwen’s system and in her possession might complicate things. There are also the ramifications of Brian's high-powered job with Caladon Pharmaceuticals, where Brian has been fretting anxiously over the potential health hazards from the off-label marketing of the anti-anxiety drug Zuprone.

Jude Gates shepherds Dana, his beloved teenage daughter, off to college and lectures her about the dangers of drinking and drugs. But Jude's hypocrisy is as startling as his cultivation of a new Montreal connection, through which he can turn a profit while also buying a much larger volume with more variety. Sweet, Jude's new corporate contact from New York City, will keep him from having to deal with the “the gang bangers and grease balls” in a business that becomes more hazardous and less alluring with each passing month.

Like a fuel-injected snort of cocaine, Stash accelerates with the thrill of being out of control, of doing crazy things, of getting “shitfaced." All the while, the real reasons behind drug-taking remain shrouded in complexity and moral ambiguity. Between the coke, cocktails, joints and pressures of family, Gwen’s threat of indictment for vehicular manslaughter will undoubtedly have consequences. Exposing the violent, ugly, seamy side of the drug world, no one escapes unscathed - especially Gwen, who ends up battling her illicit passions for Jude while also fielding her inescapable urges to cut loose and "have some fun."

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2010

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