Book Review: CANARY by Duane Swierczynski

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.

canary coverSarie Holland, the protagonist in Duane Swierczynski’s Canary, is a 17-year-old college student who’s busted after unwittingly helping another student on a drug run. But Philadelphia narcotics cop Ben Wildey doesn’t want to arrest her. He promises not to ruin her future if she gives up the name of her drug-dealing friend, mostly referred to only as D., hoping the guy would lead Wildey to the supplier at the top of the drug chain.

Sarie refuses to rat out D., so she reluctantly agrees to be a CI–confidential informant–and is plunged into increasingly harrowing situations as she tries to give Wildey the info and dealers he wants without betraying D. Along the way, Sarie gets a brutal crash course in the drug underworld, one she might not pass.

For an honors student, Sarie repeatedly makes foolish choices that strain credulity for any sane person with a basic survival instinct. And she does it all to protect a guy she barely knows, who got her into trouble in the first place and doesn’t deserve her loyalty.

But, as in Swierczynski’s Charlie Hardie series, the action just doesn’t stop, with Sarie bumping into big and bigger trouble around every corner. Even as readers internally scream at her to smarten up and do the right thing, they’ll keep reading to see just how she extricates herself from these bad situations–and resourceful she is. The author’s skillful handling of suspense and multiple points of view, as well as a sardonic wit, keeps Canary in flight.

Nerd verdict: Fast-paced but frustrating



  • Reply
    March 5, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Well, we’ve discussed this one ad nauseam, but I will say Sarie’s loyalty to D. was a big problem for me as well. Just didn’t get it. Maybe I can’t get into the head of a 17-year-old girl who likes a boy anymore, and I know that loyalty drove the story, but I wanted to sit her down and “have a chat.” 🙂 Thanks for this review, you nailed my thoughts about the book as well. Duane does great action.

  • Reply
    March 5, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Sounds like another winner by Duane.

  • Reply
    March 6, 2015 at 12:49 am

    I cannot abide stupid choices in a protagonist. I have to at least understand why they do what they do or the book will end up in the donation pile. Duane does know how to make a book move, though. On the fence with Canary.

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