Nate is a college student and pot dealer living in a trailer park outside of Gatton, Queensland in 1994. Winter has left Gatton and September’s spring has dried up Nate’s pot supply causing him several problems in Iain Ryan’s The Student (Echo Press). First and foremost, Nate pays his rent with weed, so no weed no trailer. And then his friend and connection Jesse has disappeared. Eviction looms and it’s only Wednesday.
A few more pages into The Student, two bikers from the Doomriders visit Nate looking for Jesse and/or $45,000. Dennis and Hatch scare the shit out of Nate while explaining to him that he is now responsible for the money and they’ll be back to collect in a few days. It’s still only Wednesday.
Told in the first person, The Student takes place over a frantic week as Nate searches for Jesse and the money while all the time dodging customers who are unrelenting in their want of weed and the two bikers intent on getting their pound of flesh or money — they don’t seem to care. At times, Ryan has Nate slip into a stream-of-consciousness style that only increases the tension. Nate’s journey introduces us to a cast of strange characters, weird in that way that twenty-something-year-olds are as they try to discover what kind of adults they’ll be, but calling Ryan’s The Student a coming of age novel is like saying The Silence of the Lambs is about a dressmaker.
The Student makes this the fourth book I’ve read of Iain Ryan’s since November 2016. In crime fiction terms, The Student is a vanished person thriller, but that would be like categorizing Ryan’s Tunnel Island series as police procedurals. Hint, they’re not. Ryan infuses a deep dose of noir into his books, twisting the standard genres into something deviant and dark. Like Ryan’s other books, The Student is a great read filled with plenty of weirdness, violence, drugs, sex, and other sins.