Joel Burcat is an environmental and energy lawyer working in Harrisburg, Pa, and a legally blind author. His story “Room 607” was published in Euphony Journal‘s Winter 2019 Issue. Amid Rage is the sequel to Burcat’s first novel Drink to Every Beast; however, to follow and enjoy Amid Rage, one doesn’t have to have necessarily read Drink to Every Beast first. Amid Rage is available on both Amazon and Barnes and Nobel and can also be purchased here. Amid Rage will be released on February 2nd.
Amid Rage follows Pennsylvania DEP lawyer Mike Jacobs. Mike is ordered to “babysit” a case involving the fight between a Citizens Group and Rhino Mining over a potential mine site. His job is just to ensure the DEP is not criticized; however, little by little, Mike finds himself sucked into an ethical quagmire as he becomes more and more involved in the case and learns about potential corruption. Danger ensues as the owner of Rhino Mining, Ernie Rinati, won’t let anyone stand in the way of his mining operation, let alone a mere DEP lawyer. Throughout, Mike is challenged to his very core to do what’s right in the face of ever-mounting pressure.
Burcat has an amazing gift for suspense, which we at Euphony adored in “Room 607.” This gift really shines through in Amid Rage. It’s hard to put down with all the twists and turns as the shady actions of Rhino Mining Corporation, corrupt Inspectors, and those involved with the Citizen Group of Somerset are exposed. It’s the kind of book one just wants to devour whole.
Some readers might find the portrayal of some of the female characters somewhat challenging. Miranda Clymer, the attorney representing the Somerset Citizen’s Group, uses sex to influence others and get what she wants. Having few other characteristics, she is reduced her character to a femme fatale figure. The other central female character, Nicky, while still questionable on occasion, is much more complex. Nicky’s life does revolves around Mike, and other characters use her to get to him. Throughout the book, Mike and Nicky, who happens to be a lesbian, have intense romantic chemistry. At times the extent of the sexual tension feels unrealistic for any truly platonic relationship. However, most readers will be happy to know that instead of suggesting that Nicky “could be turned,” they ultimately end up apart despite their mutual love for each other. This creates a more interesting layered relationship that explores the boundaries between platonic and romantic love. The relationship speaks to Burcat’s skill as a writer—in less competent hands, this certainly would have been executed poorly.
The court scenes are ridiculously engaging. It’s fascinating to watch Mike in court try to help the lawyer for the Somerset Citizen group, Miranda Clymer, all while trying to appear relatively neutral. Even for someone not particularly interested in court dramas, Mike’s struggle to walk this tight-rope is entertaining. Ernie Rinati is everything one could ask for in the villain of a suspense thriller, complete with some genuinely terrifying cronies. The book ends in a nail-biting, action-packed finale, which does not disappoint. If you’re looking for a fun read that will make an afternoon fly by, I highly recommend Amid Rage.
Review by Athena Hallberg