The Return
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The Return

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  328 ratings  ·  95 reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Air and Shadows, the story of one man’s fearless quest for revenge among some of the world’s most dangerous criminals

Lauded as his #1 favorite book of the year, Stephen King advised President Obama, in the pages of Entertainment Weekly, to pick up Michael Gruber’s previous book, The Good Son. With an unforgettable h...more
Hardcover, 366 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published April 24th 2012)
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Book Review

Michael Gruber is not well known in general reading circles. His fan base is small as compared to other well known writers but it is a fiercely loyal group. I am one of his readers. When I open a book written by Gruber I am confident that the star rating I will give it will be within the 4 or 5 star rating range: in other words, Michael Gruber is very consistent in the quality of books he writes. This does not mean that Gruber writes the same book twice, at least not since abandoning...more
Richard Marder, his daughter and oldest friend Patrick Skelly, are those rare characters in fiction that are so totally compelling and unforgettable, they grab you by the heart and soul. The lives of these wonderfully complex characters intersect over 40 years from the Viet Nam war to Manhattan to Michoacon, Mexico in a story so powerfully original, it makes the whole exercise of reading fiction so incredibly rewarding. The initial premise of the book is mild mannered NY book editor Richard Mard...more
Barry Hammond
Anyone who's read Michael Gruber's previous books: Tropic Of Night, Valley Of Bones, Night of the Jaguar, The Book Of Air & Shadows, The Forgery of Venus, or The Good Son, knows by now that he writes extremely realistic police procedurals, or historical novels, or action thrillers that are some of the least cliched of the present day. They all are set in believable worlds. They all have complex, adult, nuanced, interesting characters, who are not the usual thing. Strangely, they all slso hav...more

One of the greatest thrillers I've read in many years.

True to a Gruber novel, The Return weaves higher concepts into the fabric of the thriller genre. In past novels, he's tackled racism, the lines between the physical and metaphysical and the frailty of perception, faith and rebirth, greed and ecology. In this one, it's the delicate balance of revenge and justice, it asks questions about when it's right to use violence and when it isn't. His novels always leave you thinking for weeks or months...more
Graham Greene famously divided his books into "entertainments," (the thrillers) and "novels," (the more serious literary works that dealt with love, death, honor, God, sainthood, and faith.) If he had combined the two and lived until 2013, he might have produced something like this book. The set-up and plot are, frankly, so contrived as to be silly; but it's a tribute to Gruber's ability that you only realize that when you've put the book down. He can write with absolutely convincing authority a...more
Mary Holland
Spurred by some bad medical news, a man returns to Mexico to right an old wrong. The novel is dense with non-patronizing details about life in Michoacan under the threat of warring drug lords. There's also some accurate (as far as I can tell) flashbacks to the Vietnam War, as the protagonist and his old buddy prepare the villagers for attacks. As a thriller, this is very well-written, although I did guess one of the surprises at the end, the second one caught me, well, by surprise. All of Michae...more
Colleen Estep
If you have never read Michael Gruber then "The Return" will have you hooked. I was already a fan, and thought "The Book of Air and Shadows", and "The Good Son", couldn't be outdone.... but, "The Return" had me hooked from the first page.
Richard Marder touches your heat from page one. His wife, the love of his life, gave up her family and her country to be with the man she loved. She has died 3 years earlier, never having reconciled with her family in Mexico. When he is told by his doctor that...more
My first novel by Michael Gruber, it will not be the last.

A great fun read and I had a hard time putting this one down.
Mr. Gruber filled his characters with life, and I was actually ticked-off at one point in the story reading a plot twist that took one key character in a direction I was unhappy with, and didn't see coming. Mr. Gruber tied it all together in a surprising and satisfying climax.

Not much of a reviewer, maybe the best thing I can say is...

I purchased two more copies to give to frien...more
The Return by Michael Gruber was a fantastic Read! I have to say that action packed novels aren't my normal genre (although I'm not really quite sure what to place my go-to genre to be) but this read was wonderful. I loved the way the flashbacks were woven into the story and how surprises seemed to lurk around every page turn. When it comes out early this fall, RUN don't walk to your nearest book store. I was drawn into the story after the first page.
Max Rudenko
Unusually refreshing and invigorating book. It's sad and funny at the same time. Very nicely written too. I liked very much this author's literary style. This novel is also inspirational and thought provoking. I will definitely read more Michael Gruber books in the future.
Thanks a lot once more for the recommendation, Ed! The book wasn't at all dark or gloomy.
Claudia Putnam
Disappointed. I'm a big Gruber fan and have read most of the novels under his name. We literary writers and readers often talk about to whom you can turn when you want a good escape read that is... well, GOOD. And I always say, Gruber, Gruber, Gruber. So I couldn't wait for this one, especially as I've been to Michoacan, and my son spent several months there during his gap year, though in the highlands, freaking me out with phone calls home like "Oh, hey mom, I hitchhiked down to such and such,...more
There are preconceptions associated with what makes a thriller. If you took two minutes time to scribble out some of those ideas and conventions, what would populate your list? Short punchy chapters—certainly, it is a physical representation and motivation for you to keep turning pages. A protagonist who has his burdened backstory spooned out in quippy expositional asides by supporting characters—or by an interior monologue. There are supporting characters that serve plot and not much else. Ther...more
Carlo Ruggiero
Received an advanced review copy of this book for free through Goodreads First Reads, well before the release date (September 3, 2013).

I had heard of the author before (having considered The Book of Air and Shadows quite some time ago), but had not read any of his previous releases.

I am of two (or more) minds regarding The Return by Michael Gruber. It is well-written, nice grammar, decent vocabulary, but the main character at times comes across as an anti-hero despite having the best of intenti...more
I received an ARC of this book to review through the Goodreads Firstreads program.
I was a bit nervous when I received this in the mail. True, something made me sign up for the giveaway - but it looked more violent and adventuresome than I typically like. The cover is absolutely gorgeous but is covered with weapons and ammunition in the shape of a skull. Well, on page 1 I came across this quote I was inspired to write down: "You're dying and I'm not and as much as I care for you I can't treat yo...more
Peter Charleston
Michael Gruber provides a novel which was enjoyable to read. Marder desires to do something special with his remaining days after the doctor’s diagnosis and his old pal Skelly tags along. Memories from the past are sprinkled throughout the book which contributes to the adventure. Will this be a dream retirement or will revenge become Marders intent. Who is Skelly anyway and why would you not tell your daughter, Statch, you are heading to Mexico for retirement? All will be answered as the story u...more
This is a book that's about the Mexican drug wars, but it's also about how out of place many of the veterans of the Vietnam War were after they came home. It's about redemption and how we fail to earn it, and it's the most unique revenge story I've read in a very long time. Possibly ever. I'm a sucker for revenge stories, but this one is a very different flavor from the black and white Hollywood vengeance flicks, and it's complex in a different direction than Count of Monte Cristo.

And it has som...more
Vicki Elia
Audiobook Review
5 Stars
Narrated by Jonathan Davis

A challenge: Read the first few chapters of this book, then predict the ending.

A story beginning with the poetry of Octavio Paz's Vuelta read in Spanish may be off-putting, but sets the true tone for this remarkable novel. Richard Marder, a book editor from New York, abruptly finds he may not have long to live. With the recent death of his wife and with grown children, he cashes it all in, buys an RV and sets out for Mexico. Reluctantly, he's join...more
A Gruber book on audio never, ever disappoints. The narrator - Jonathan Davis was excellent.

Others, such as Harry (, have done the hard work of describing what makes a Gruber novel special.

This story, at its heart, is the story of three people -- Marder, a man whose just been delivered a death sentence by his doctor; Skelly, Marder's friend since Vietnam; and Carmel or Statch, Marder's daughter. Marder, a book editor, reacts to his death sentence by buyi...more
Occasionally, I enjoy a book so thoroughly that I want to reread it as soon as it's finished. Richard Marder, the protagonist, discovers he has an incurable aneurism in his brain that will kill him sooner rather than later. He discards his career as an editor of other people's work and goes to Mexico on a quest to atone to his dead wife. The quest is beautiful, romantic and replete with danger. Luckily for Marder, his best friend, a mercenary comrade from his service in Viet Nam accompanies. Ske...more
Though the plot description sounds like something a middle manager might fantasize while sitting through someone's Powerpoint presentation, Gruber imbues it with enough heart and social commentary to make it an enjoyable ride. Like The Good Son, The Return takes us to one of the world's lawless places, in this case Mexico on the front lines of the drug wars. His flair for place is impeccable; you'll smell the meat roasting in the open air markets, feel the warm sun on your arms.

For characters,...more
Josh Evans
Page 321 of the first edition hard copy has a misspelled word ("comversation"??? ever heard of spellcheck?), that pretty much sums it up.
Yet another case of someone trying to write a fiction story and incorporating things they do not know about personally. The first three paragraphs of chapter 22 are the most inaccurate and terribly written paragraphs I have ever read in a novel. I attended college on a swimming scholarship, so nice try with all of the bullshit about keeping time by counting th...more
A typically excellent novel by Michael Gruber. The story starts in Manhattan, moves in a cross-country pilgrimage to the place where the protagonist Marder met and won his wife. Marder is on a trip to return to the place of an important turning point in his life, while the flashbacks involve a return to another very important turning point when the convoluted arc of his life took a major change that led to all that follows. A weave of various aspects of Marder's past and present life that, as ha...more
Keith Rosson
Despite the fact that every character in this book was just so relentlessly verbose, articulate and quick-witted, I enjoyed it. The ceaseless quips got a little old - I kept hoping at least one character would stumble and say, "Uh, what?" or "What the hell did you just say to me?" - and the plot itself was pretty ludicrous, but that kind of goes hand in hand with the genre, I think. But there's no refuting that Gruber can write like a mofo; on a sentence-by-sentence level, THE RETURN is a beauti...more
Jim Morris
Good story, great characters, excellent setting. Hey, this is a Michael Gruber novel. The protagonist is dying anyway, might as well go back to Mexico and find out what happened to his wife's family, who were murdered by drug runners. Accompanied by his semi-crazy Spec Ops buddy, and later joined by his daughter, whom he was trying to shield from all this our hero prevails. Of course he dies. He was always going to, but not before accomplishing everything he set out to do. Good on him. Good on G...more
Joel Margolese
Michael Gruber is one of my favorite authors and I've been waiting for this book for a while. And it did not disappoint. While Gruber often explores the edge between the supernatural and the normal (?) and the religious and the secular, his characters and stories are widely varied. There is no genre nor formula in his books. But I can always count on a great story, good tension and excellent character development.

In this book, we are traveling with Richard Marder who has one last journey to com...more
I wasn't at all familiar with Michael Gruber before reading THE RETURN. It might be one of the best thrillers I've read this year.

Rick Marder has a plan. His wife died a few years before. he's estranged from his son, His daughter has her own life.

When Marder gets a piece of bad news from his doctor, he decides he wants to right a few wrongs. To do that will take him down into Mexico to the home town of his late wife and in the vicinity of the drug cartel that had murdered her parents, sending he...more

*I won this ARC copy via a library thing giveaway*
Richard Marder is a man with many secrets but even those closest to him would never guess that he isn’t exactly what they believe him to be. Only one man, Patrick Francis Skelly, knows Marder’s dark side. Their friendship, conceived during the Vietnam War, is the only relationship he has left to rely on. Marder, feeling like he has nothing left to lose, decides he must have vengeance for the actions that changed his life catastrophically; Skelly...more
Cyndy Calkins
This is a book of love and of loss and of violence; it is a book of evil and of good, of deception and of loyalty. And it is a book of Mexico. And a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

Rick Marder is a New York book editor. After he receives news of an inoperable "thing" he abruptly leaves his life for a small coastal town in Mexico. It is here he will seek revenge for the gangland murder of the parents of his deceased wife.

He is accompanied on this mission by his long-time buddy, Skelly. They are opposit...more
I was neither over nor underwhelmed by this book. My expectations of Gruber are unfair, demanding 'wow' with every book and no author is always 'wow'. I would have preferred to love or hate it, but mostly I finished it and went to bed.

Some ideas to ponder. What would you do if you really had nothing to lose? And what exactly does 'nothing to lose' mean? Even Marder discovered there were still things left to lose. The idea was not convincingly explored as the characters were in a good position to...more
another complicated multicultural thrill ride with some interesting observations on humans.

but this one, unlike his others--which have some serious stretchers--is just sort of flat unbelievable. two vietnam-era guys take on mexican narcoterrorism? ok so they had a tiny (untrained) army and really advantageous terrain from which to fight, but i am just flat not believing it.

plus, these guys drink and have wild athletic sex all night long and don't really seem to suffer from it the next day. maybe...more
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Michael Gruber is an author living in Seattle, Washington. He attended Columbia University and received his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Miami. He worked as a cook, a marine biologist, a speech writer, a policy advisor for the Jimmy Carter White House, and a bureaucrat for the EPA before becoming a novelist.

He is generally acknowledged to be the ghostwriter of the popular Robert K. Tane...more
More about Michael Gruber...
The Book of Air and Shadows The Forgery of Venus The Good Son Tropic of Night (Jimmy Paz, #1) The Witch's Boy

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“Well, we start with this outrageous idea that the ground of being, existence itself, is a person, and that this person is intimately concerned with each of our lives and desires us to turn our hearts toward him. Once you accept that level of insanity—or faith, as we prefer to call it—then it makes perfect sense to try to discern what God’s purpose is for your life through a disciplined process of prayer and self-examination, discernment, as we say.” 1 likes
“In my country, politics is tragic, and all our great politicians have been tragic figures, either saints or demons. You, clearly, are one of the saints. But no one expects real change, because the nation reflects the human condition, original sin, call it what you like. There will always be a chingón and a chingada, and the only question is which men fall into which group. In your country, on the other hand, you believe that change is possible, and so your politics is comic. All your politicians are therefore clowns.” 1 likes
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