The Canary List: A Novel

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Canary by Duane Swierczynski follows Sarie Holland, a freshman honors student caught up as a confidential informant, who is tasked with trying to help take down a drug ring, while keeping on top of her studies. From the outset, I was immediately drawn into the plight of Sarie Holland, a freshman honors student who went from intellectualizing the best strategies to avoid getting high and drunk at a party to becoming an unwitting accomplice on a drug buy to being recruited as a confidential informant for the police—all within the space of a few hours. After all, what other newly minted confidential informant would think to Google the police department in order to better understand where her handler placed in the organizational hierarchy?

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Or refuse to meet her handler because she still had a paper on Goethe to write for honors English? I found myself admiring Sarie for her toughness and her ingenuity as well as her unflappable commitment to good grades :.

If I can crank out some bullshit paper on the French Revolution in eight hours, I can definitely find a drug dealer in Philadelphia. But like its namesake, Canary is smart and complex and full of competing tensions; a terrific—and sometimes twisted—blend of grit and levity, darkness and humanity.

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Bursts of fire in the distance. Weedy swamps and dump sites. I was also fascinated by the random tidbits about Philadelphia that Swierczynski incorporated with glee.

I mean, I lived in the city for 21 years, and I never knew some of these things. It seemed authentic and plausible to me, at least.


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However, beneath the persistent darkness and beyond the criminal conspiracies, Canary reveals a lot of heart—the pain of true humanity, exhibited in the poignant relationships between Sarie and her father who, delightful irony of ironies, is a drug counselor , as well as between Sarie and her precocious brother Marty, and even between Sarie and her handler. These relationships—this need to connect—really help elevate the story, adding nuance and depth to the characters and their motivations.

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At the same time, Dilys, a lonely young woman, embarks on a passionate friendship with a new female recruit that leads her to doubt her beliefs. Avoiding the easy mockery the subject might suggest, McGlasson has forged a poignant story of misplaced faith and unexpected love. Get The International Pack for free for your first 30 days for unlimited Smartphone and Tablet access.

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Canary by Duane Swierczynski - Criminal Element

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