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4.48  ·  Rating details ·  65 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Living alone in the dusty apartment where he grew up, Ray Nelson is a mystery to his neighbors and an unbeatable foe to the brutal men he fights in the ring for money. But a life defined by sinister secrets doesn’t stop Ray from trying to do the right thing for his dangerously high-flying sister. Or for Natalie, the young girl living next door. As a sadistic murderer’s omi ...more
ebook, 217 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Alibi
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4.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  65 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Mark Matthews
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Richard Thomas spits out sentences with machine-gun fire that smack you in the chest. This book is poetry. Breaker was written like a modern, urban, epic poem. Yes, it was dark, violent, savage, but it's also filled with heroic deeds and sacrifice. Like an insect on their backs, all limbs desperately clawing and scraping at the air, it's about a fight to rise above one's lineage. The human spirit is fragile, and Thomas writes about human fragility with intensity, compassion, understanding and em ...more
Donna Davis
Richard Thomas is a monstrously great writer. In Breaker, a Windy City Dark mystery, he presents us with Ray, a man of unusual and intimidating appearance; a sinister stranger in a white van who victimizes Chicago’s working class school girls; and Natalie, the girl that lives next door to Ray. Though this is the first Windy City Dark mystery I read, I fell in, only extricating myself close to bedtime, because this is not the kind of thing you want entering your dreams. This smashing thriller cam ...more
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
The title of this book says it all: It takes place in Chicago, and if the story got any darker, I probably would have stopped reading after the first few chapters. It was unsettling, upsetting and, in some respects, unsatisfying - but it's also an outstanding work. Thanks to the publisher (via NetGalley) for the opportunity to read it in exchange for a review. And for the record, I give this one 4.5 stars, which isn't possible here.

Ray Nelson is more than a bit of a physical freak - never loved
Glen Krisch
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As brutal as Thomas's earlier novel, Disintegration, but somehow even more disturbing because of its smaller, more intimate scale. Highly recommended.
Shane Keene
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I’ll confess to being somewhat skeptical when I started reading the new Windy City Dark book by Richard Thomas. DISINTEGRATION, the first entry in the series, was such a beautiful rendering of the dirty underbelly of a Chicago that never was that I was sure there’d be no way to outdo it. It would be a tall order to even match the greatness of that book. It only took me a few short chapters to realize how mistaken I was. BREAKER is an outstanding, heartbreaking motherfucker of a book that takes u ...more
E.P. Ferguson
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Writing reviews is not my forte but this story got under my skin and keeps nudging at me to spread the word. The second novel by Richard Thomas I've read, it has all the same dark gritty noir as his first novel DISINTEGRATION but the story is more complex, woven masterfully to reveal an ending that is unexpected, haunting, and yet, full of hope. It moved me to tears.

The main character Ray is what the story is, both dark and light, a monster but a soulful human being, a freak but someone's salvat
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Broken souls, that is what Richard Thomas quickly is becoming an expert on. It is evident in his short stories, for instance the eerie Asking for Forgiveness or the somber Twenty Reasons to Stay and One to Leave, that both have damaged people at the center. It was also a main theme in his previous release Disintegration, where the main character had witnessed tragedy and because of it had become an easy target for the lowlife of Chicago.

This follow up, another Windy City Dark Mystery, is similar
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it

This was a hard one for me to review, I had sit on it for a while and let the book just permeate in my mind. I enjoyed it. It was hard not to like it's beautifully written, a dark mystery that leans to the noir style. It's very dark, "Windy City Dark Mystery" it says it all. But it went deeper and darker than I was expecting. It's violent and raw; it shows the worst of the worst of human nature. It is also exciting, it makes you heart pound in your chest and then in the next chapter i
Luke Schamer
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is scheduled to release in January 2016--do NOT miss this one. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy from Netgalley, and I am so glad I did, because when people ask me for a book recommendation at upcoming Christmas/NYE parties, I will enthusiastically namedrop Richard Thomas and his phenomenal novel BREAKER (and then try really hard not to spoil the book just because I want to talk about it so bad).

I absolutely loved the first half of this novel. Thomas's writing in the first h
Darcia Helle
This review is difficult for me to write, because everything I want to say puts me at risk of sounding like an infatuated groupie. But, really, damn can this guy write!

Breaker has two narrators. The first and most prominent is Ray, and his part is written in first person. We crawl right inside his mind, which is a dark and disturbing place. He is rough and raw, broken, yet reaching out for a bright spot, a bit of redemption or salvation in his difficult life.

The second narrator is Natalie, and
Adrean Messmer
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
You know that moment when you're on a roller coaster, at the top of that first hill and realizing how stupidly long the drop is going to be? And you maybe wish you could reconsider because you're not sure you can deal with what's about to happen, but, damn, it's too late and here we go, you're falling.

That's kinda like this book.

Okay, so, there were some points in this book when I thought, 'Man, this is batshit. This would never happen'. Especially when I thought about Disintegration. Then I rea
Craig Wallwork
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thomas is a reliable writer. What do I mean by that? Few books have the ability to carry you along without flourishes to the prose that dazzle you with their design. Thomas proves in Breaker that he can win a reader's trust and have your heart in his hand by solid, reliable writing. That's not to say this is dumbed down. There are moments in Breaker that slows you to halt as you retread the sentence to read something quite profound. But I'll go back to my main point: this is a fast read, solid s ...more
Scott Parsons
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This novel set in Chicago, the Windy City, features Ray Nelson, a large ungainly man who keeps to the shadows, Nathalie, a young girl living in his apartment building and a white van with a driver who abducts young girls. This novel is offbeat but well written and interesting. Ray keeps his mother's corpse in the spare bedroom of his apartment. While this sounds somewhat macabre Thomas writes so well that you get caught up in Ray's story which comes to a shattering conclusion when he comes face ...more
Gage Greenwood
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fast paced neo-noir.

This book reminded me of early Lehane, fast paced, bleak, and not without an appreciation for the city and its dark alleys. Every character has a secret, a hidden darkness, and all of them utilize it in different ways. Don't expect a gentle journey. From the beginning you're going to take some punches to the gut. As the story progresses, those punches are going to hit faster and faster until Richard Thomas delivers a finale that will knock you out cold. When those rough sc
Ashleigh Gauch
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Richard's writing style is engaging, poetic, and powerful. He managed to take a distasteful main character and make him engaging, sympathetic, and tragic. The pacing is fantastic and the writing itself fascinating - an interesting blend of noir and literary. I can't talk too much about the plot without spoiling it, but the breadcrumbs leading up until the ending were well done, and I enjoyed the thrill of the ride. Well done!
Sarah Read
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Richard Thomas has an uncanny way of chaining your heart to less-than-lovable characters, and then cranking that chain until you give out. He writes with precision, and he doesn't have much mercy for the reader. I liked this one even better than the first Windy City Mystery, and I'm really looking forward to the next.
Nick Nafpliotis
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Imagine if Marv from Sin City had a stronger moral compass, less restraint, bigger heart, and lived in Chicago. There's your main character to Breaker, who is backed up by a stellar supporting cast which includes the city itself.

Another great read in the Windy City series.
Jay Williams
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Extremely beautiful writing on a very dark subject. This book is not for the squeamish. The overall message is that a monstrous exterior can hide a good person. The book is worth reading just for the sheer beauty of expression.
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When you open up a Richard Thomasbook, you know before even turning a page that you've got your hands on a literary gem. From the first page to the last, Breaker is a great book. It's very easy to read and very direct. This time you're not clawing your way out of a web of mysterious images.

As the dedication at the end makes clear, this story is an ode to those who have suffered, those who struggle to drown out the pain, those on the edges, those who have shut themselves out.

Along the way, the
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I reviewed this book for NetGalley.

Mr. Thomas is a hell of a writer. I read "Disintegration," the first book in the "Windy City Mysteries" and was suitably impressed. This novel is just as good, even better!

Mr. Thomas has a beautiful, gritty dark voice. He creates an atmosphere of dark despair so masterfully, yet allows some sunshine to peek through the clinging, oppressive mist. His characters talk like real people, which is difficult to find in a lot of fiction.

The plot centers around Ray, so
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, own
As I said in my review of Disintegration, the first of Richard Thomas's Windy City Dark mysteries, each book stands alone because they share a common setting (Chicago) but not a common cast of characters. Normally, that would be a plus for me; the books in the series can be read in any order, and I don't have to remember the details from a prior book in order to understand a character's actions in a subsequent book. In this case, however, Thomas's designation of Breaker as a Windy City Dark myst ...more
P.e. lolo
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: suspense
This is a dark and gritty story, but a very good one. Ray Nelson lives in the apartment that he grew up in and you are taken through his childhood through his memories which were not good. He now leaves at night and at least once a week goes to a ware house where fights in an underground fight ring. Taking on one to four opponents at a time with usually one arm tied behind his back. He looks scared and because of his size people are put off of him and scared. The one person who is not afraid of ...more
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Violence, its promoters and victims, seem to rule David Nelson’s life. His mom, almost certainly a killer of his older brother, supposedly dead of SIDS, and who had been slowly poisoning him; his dad, a child molester and killer, who David thought had left long ago; a sister strung out on drugs, and his own life – being paid to fight no holds bared in a secret, illegal ring.

Until he realizes his neighbor’s young teen daughter needs protection – more importantly, she needs to know how to protect
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Military and Police often use an analogy bout sheepdogs and wolves. The idea is that both have a capability for violence. They both have teeth. They snarl and bark. They are natural predators. The flock fears them for this capacity. The difference is that the wolves hunt the flock, while the sheepdogs will die for them.

Ray, the co-protagonist of Richard Thomas's Breaker is not a sheepdog. He is more like the human neo-noir equivalent of White Fang. His draw to protect Natalie is unmatched by any
Excellent read

A very good book. I couldn't put it down. Enough twists and turns to really keep a person thinking. Would recommend it for sure.
Marcie Fraser
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love this story and its endearing revulsion. Breaker had me in the city lurking through menacing alleyways in the dead of night. There were trials and tribulations throughout this heartfelt book. Ray Nelson, works nights, brutally butchering his opponents for money in the fighting ring. An unsuspecting hero arises from a harsh reality and you want to like him, and when you do, your not sure you should have. In the crack of a dank city sidewalk, grows a pretty flower waiting to be crushed under ...more
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, 2016
Let me start by saying that this is the third book that I have read by Richard Thomas. That tells you something right off the bat, that I keep coming back for more of his work. Richard Thomas' writing ability is exceptional. Breaker has that dark edge, gritty to the point where it felt like I needed to wash my hands after reading. There are few authors that can really do that. I will continue reading Richard Thomas' work in the future.
Hetch Litman
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dark and savage but filled with humanity. The prose is precise and clean. The story grabs you on page one and doesn't let go until the end. And the story rings true. You end up really living the life of the characters, seeing the dark world through their eyes and you care. What more could you ask. Richard Thomas has a gift, folks, and it's on display in this novel. Huge fan of this novel. Highly recommended.
Dana Isaacson
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Richard Thomas' books are beautiful written and moving. They can also make you gasp at the level of human cruelty in the world. And then a redemptive tenderness creeps in. What an amazing talent this writer is. Though not for the feint of heart, I recommend all his novels with a taste for hard-edged human drama and suspense.
Josef Hernandez
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very good noir novel

For a full review, please go to or and follow me on Twitter @josenher
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Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of seven books: three novels—Disintegration and Breaker (Random House Alibi), and Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); three short story collections—Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press), Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press), and Tribulations (Cemetery Dance); as well as one novella in The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). With over 100 stories published, h ...more
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“We trigger each other, it seems, some dysfunctional Rube Goldberg mousetrap, a laugh, then a slap, a razor gliding over a mirror, a glass filled, a glass emptied, a ball rolling down a length of pipe, a pipe filling up and overflowing with smoke. On our best days, we see each other for all that we are, and we find a way to make each other better.” 2 likes
“In a city of almost three million people, a white van stands out about as much as a pigeon in a park. White vans deliver flowers, they carry plumbers, and boxes destined for front porches. This white van is unlike the rest; it has been customized. The flooring has been torn up and replaced with sheets of steel, powder-coated with black paint so they won’t rust or show stains. Metal drains have been installed, complete with catches, drilled in three separate places for easy maintenance and cleaning. There are thick metal eyebolts fastened into the frame in several spots, impossible to remove, at various heights up and down the walls. The gas tank is a custom installation, almost double the normal size, holding up to thirty gallons of gas, which means that it can drive for almost six hundred miles, to St. Louis and back, without running out of fuel. It can also cruise the dark streets all night long—for days, even weeks—before finally becoming empty, frequent gas station stops to be avoided. And the windows are tinted black, illegal of course, but hardly drawing any attention, so dark that even standing up next to them, it’s impossible to see inside. And for the driver, that’s a good thing—a very good thing, indeed.” 1 likes
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