Sunday, December 18, 2011

Zero Day on my Lucky Day

Review of the new David Baldacci by @mrneil98

For those would have followed my recent posts, I was quite perturbed that Baldacci’s new release Zero Day, as well as the new Crichton, Micro, were listed at the “special” price of $14.99 for Nook and Kindle. Two weeks after their release the price dropped to the regular (but still too high) $12.99. I refused to purchase either book at either price, feeling manipulated by the publisher.

So last Saturday, while attending my local library’s semiannual book sale, I was surprised to see a copy of Zero Day resting on a shelf called “Lucky Day”. This section contains hot new releases that may be checked out for only seven days, cannot be renewed and have a $.25 a day late charge. I guess it was my lucky day, as I snatched the copy and made for the checkout counter. I had seven days to read the book for free.

It only took four. Zero Day is a quick read, well written and fast paced, full of interesting people and places that may seem familiar. Although John Puller is a new Baldacci central hero, he has many elements similar to his other characters Shaw (from Deliver Us From Evil) and Oliver Stone (From the Camel Club series). Still the comparison I found myself making most was with Jack Reacher from the Lee Child series.

Although elements were familiar, Baldacci is a very talented writer and is able to make even the familiar seem fresh and exciting. The story involves Puller, a Military criminal investigator, looking into the murder of a family in rural West Virginia. The locale, Drake, is perhaps the most interesting twist in the story and the part that reminded me the most of the travels and exploits of Jack Reacher. Puller hooks up with the town sheriff, a woman, and begins to realize that in small towns everyone is connected in some way.

While there are many twists in typical Baldacci fashion, I was drawn to the Puller’s relationship with his father, a military hero suffering from dementia, and his brother, serving life in prison for treason. The novel left the details of both of these relationship mostly untold, to be uncovered in later episodes of the series.

Is Zero Day worth the cost? For me it was, but it was my lucky day. If you are a Baldacci fan, you will not be disappointed. If you are new to him, this is not a bad place to start, with all new characters in a brand new series. If you want a trial, I would recommend Camel Club, the first in the Oliver Stone series to see if it is to your liking. For me, I am intrigued with Puller’s potential and look forward to the continuation of the series, especially to find out more about his father and brother.

Special Note: James Rollins will be annoucing the title of his next Sigma thriller at midnight PST on 12/20/11. The novel is tentatively scheduled for release June 26th, 2012. Stay tuned for updates.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review of Quick Kill by @mrneil98

And Interview with Author Patricia McCallum

Quick Kill is a fast paced mystery/thriller by Patricia McCallum, which introduces readers to an endearing new protagonist, Sydney Granger. Sydney is a female detective, small in stature but more than compensates with tenacity and courage. Sydney and her hunky partner, Mike Stanza, are involved in a string of murders, all occurring in a span of a few days. Initially there seems to be no connection between the victims aside from the gruesome manner in which they died. Through some fine detective work, Sydney and Mike race to the final exciting, and unexpected, conclusion.

For a debut novel, McCallum has created a thriller that warrants considerable attention. Her characters are likeable and believable while her storyline remains within the realm of reality, not an easy task when trying to create a new twist on the serial killer genre. McCallum, a member of the IBC, is off to a fantastic start and a promising future with Sydney Ganger leading the way, solving a wide assortment of cases.

Patricia agreed to answer some questions so we could get to know more about her:

1. Tell us a little about yourself. Quick Kill is set in Toronto. Are you from there?

Yes, I was born and raised in Toronto, then I left for 25 years to wander the earth. I have recently moved back from India and I'm attempting to 'settle down' once again! So far, so good. My next book might include some of the places I've lived in, so more of an international feel but keeping the main base in Toronto. Sydney loves Toronto.

2. While reading Quick Kill I was reminded of James Patterson works. Who are your influences when it comes to writing?

James Patterson, lol!! Thank-you, that is a awesome compliment for me! I also like Michael Connelly, Jonathan Kellerman and Tess Gerritsen.

3. Musically gifted children play an important part in your thriller. Has music been an influence in your life?
Actually no, that idea came out of thin air. Of course, like everyone, I enjoy music but I could never sing or play a musical instrument to save my life. Not even the recorder!

4. Sydney, the police detective/protagonist, uses yoga as a relaxation. Is this something you have tried?

I'm a yoga instructor. I practice Moksha hot yoga at the moment and teach chair yoga to enthusiastic little old ladies. :)

5. What is next for Patricia McCallum? Another thriller or a venture in another direction?

Sydney definitely has more adventures in the future but another thriller idea I've had for awhile is dying to burst out of me. We shall see...

Thanks Patricia and we look forward to your next venture. You can pick up a copy of Quick Kill here and find out more about Patricia on her blog.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Red Hot Thrillers by @mrneil98

This post was inspired by two events from this week; the first was the announcement by Ray Bradbury to allow the release of Fahrenheit 451 as an e-book and the second was spending fifteen minutes every morning scraping frost off my windshield. I reflected back to this summer when I did a blog on “cold” thrillers after an especially hot week. I know it is early in what may prove to be a long, cold winter but I would like to select some thrillers to help keep out the cold. .

After eliminating dozens of “fire” titles due to the use of fire in relation to shooting a gun, I whittled the voluminous pile to my top five thrillers. While I tried to achieve the initial warming from the title, the setting of the novel was far more important to elevating the temperature of my psyche. The selection process was difficult and I had to omit classics like the aforementioned Fahrenheit 451, Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone and James Rollin’s Sandstorm. So here they are in David Letterman-esque countdown form:

5. Echo Burning by thrill master Lee Child. An earlier Jack Reacher (Number 5) set in the scorching desert with Reacher coming to the aid of a young mother who seems to be targeted by assassins. Not the best of the series but Child is an exceptional writer and he has created an iconic figure with Reacher.

4. Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Although the title does not immediately warm your buns, the novel opens on safari in Africa with Pendergast reliving his wife’s death. The majority of the remainder of the novel is set in the bayous of Louisiana. The novel is the first of the Helen Trilogy, which was followed by Cold Vengeance this summer and will conclude with Two Graves in the summer of 2012. This is not my favorite Pendergast but it an exciting and interesting exploration into the psyche of this mysterious FBI Special Agent.

3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. This is the second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, continuing the tale of Katniss Everdeen by creating a special Games for the 75th anniversary against past champions. This book is even a little more violent than the first but the overall feel of the book is as a placeholder. The story is just a vehicle to more the plot along to the ultimate showdown in Mockingjay. If I did not have the third episode already on my Nook I would have been angry at the conclusion of Fire.

2. Ark of Fire by C. M. Palov. This impressive first novel by Palov is a thriller involving a race for the Ark of the Covenant pairing American photographer Edie Miller and British historian and former Special Agent Caedmon Aisquith. The action, pacing and historical information is reminiscent of James Rollins and Steve Berry and just as rewarding.

1. Sahara by Clive Cussler. This is my favorite Cussler adventure and featured Dirk Pitt. Any novel that begins with the South kidnapping Lincoln on an iron-clad ship has you hooked right in the beginning. You can tell that Cussler had as much fun writing the book as the reader has reading it. He even wrote himself into the book as a character. The discoveries made along the way fit into the flow of the action even as far-fetched as they may be.

There are so many hot thrillers to heat your chilly winter nights but I recommend losing yourself in one of these scorching titles. What are some of your favorites that I may have missed?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cheap Thrills by @mrneil98

For months I anxiously awaited the release of Zero Day by David Baldacci and Micro, Michael Crichton’s last thriller completed by Richard Preston, and I had resigned myself to shelling out the $12.99 I’d paid for previous new releases on my nook. I was shocked, to say the least, when I found that each e-book was listed at a “special price” of $14.99. There was nothing special about the price. Neither of the books rival the length of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 or any of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, and in any case what cost is extra pages to an ebook? In fact, what added cost could have possibly made these more expensive than the latest Rollins, Berry or Pendergast book. Somehow this price seemed excessive, crossing a previously unrealized line. Couldn’t this $15 be spent more efficiently on a greater quantity (and equal quality) of thrills?

With the gauntlet cast down, my wife and I set out to two of our favorite thrift stores, armed with a note pad, pencil and $15 in cash. Each store charges $1 for hardcovers and $.70 for paperbacks. The rules are simple and I make them up as I go. I am looking for thrillers that I have not read but would be interested in adding to my To-Be-Read list, which already stretches into the next life.

There are 47 hardcover thrillers between the two stores, of which I had previously read only 9. There are 48 paperbacks that filled the bill, forty of them I had yet to read. Most of the authors were recognizable and the titles were best sellers. It’s very difficult but I manage to narrow my selection.

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen
Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
Predator by Patricia Cornwell
Consent to Kill by Vince Flynn
Honor Among Thieves by Jeffery Archer
Saint by Ted Dekker
Raising Phoenix by Kyle Mills

The Eight by Katherine Neville
Dead Watch by John Sandford
Darkest Fear by Harlan Coben
The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen
Path of the Assassins by Brad Thor
The Keepers by Heather Graham
Dear Irene by Jan Burke
Play Dirty by Sandra Brown

Total for Hardcovers = $7, Paperbacks = $5.60; so I need two more paperback. I select two older thrillers by a couple of popular authors; Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton and Saving Faith by David Baldacci. Final total = $15. Now all I need is the time to read them.

Thrift stores are not the only option for “cheap” thrills. The 99CentNetwork has countless books priced $.99 - $2.99 by indie authors, many of whom are a part of the IBC. There is also the upcoming 99CentBookEvent by the WLC and IAN.
One final note: After the first two weeks of release at the “special price” of $14.99, Baldacci’s Zero Day is now selling for $12.99. What was special about the first pricing?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Asylum Lake by R. A. Evans

Review by Michelle Scott

Note: The ThrillersRockT welcomes Michelle to the team. You can follow her on twitter , Facebook and/or her blog.

Asylum Lake (Parting the Veil) by R. A. Evans is a gripping, fast-paced thriller that left me with chills. Unfortunately, problematic flashbacks, spelling errors, and poor formatting undermined the tense plot and eerie setting.

In early 1970’s, a series of gruesome murders rocks the quiet, little town of Bedlam Falls, Michigan. But what’s even more disturbing than these terrible crimes is the fact that the perpetrator is a twelve-year-old son of a respected minister. The town, knowing that the culprit has been locked away, breathes a sigh of relief until thirty years later when the horrible acts are played out once more. Now, news reporter Brady Tanner stumbles across some disturbing family history that may help solve these mysteries and end the cycle of horror.

For the most part, I found this book to be entirely absorbing. At times, Evans’s writing leaves the reader breathless. Some events, such as the graphic murder sequences, left images in my mind that will not soon be erased. Other scenes, such as a time in which a foursome of teenagers decided to go for a nighttime swim, were wonderfully tense.

But not every scene is so well rendered. Clunky back story mangles the opening chapters of the book, and further on, the flashbacks are so poorly handled that it can be confusing to know what happens when. Also, there are many formatting troubles including such things as oddly-indented paragraphs and strangely-placed chapter headings.

Asylum Lake is the first in a series of books by R.A. Evans. It is a good first attempt by this author, but I hope that some of the problems with flashbacks and formatting will be fixed in the next books.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dance of the Winnebagos by Ann Charles

Here at Thrillers Rock Twitter we love #thrillers. We read #thrillers. We watch #thrillers. Some of us write #thrillers. But this weekend we are honoring our men and women in uniform, past and present, who live #thrillers every day. Our brave soldiers protect and serve our nation, far too often at their personal risk. Their brave families wait at home far too often not knowing if their beloved is safe and sound or in the midst of armed conflict. We can never do enough to honor and thank these awesome men and women.

Nov. 11 - Nov. 14 the Indie Book Collective is sponsoring Blog Tour de Troops, in honor of our soldiers and veterans. If you visit any of the participating author sites on the tour and comment with an email address you will get a FREE copy of one of the authors books. You can also designate a FREE copy to be sent to a soldier or veteran. eBooks, Kindles, and other goodies are also being gathered to send to our troops, and many of the authors have contests and other prizes for their commenters.

Visit the Blog Tour de Troops website for more information, then join us in a #thrilling blog hop with over a dozen FREE eBooks and a chance to win a Kindle! Get FREE eBooks for yourself and send them to your loved ones who serve our nation so selflessly.

Dance of the Winnebagos by Ann Charles

Reviewed by Maxwell Cynn

Dance of the Winnebagos by Ann Charles is one of the most fun books I've read in a long time. The rich cast of characters, and their antics, had me flipping pages - at times embroiled in the deliciously romantic cozy mystery, at others to find out what hilarious stunt would happen next.

Claire is a thirty-something who still hasn't found herself. She's tagging along with her grandfather and his buddies to keep an eye on them. They have their Winnebagos parked in an RV resort where they have invited every retired floozy on the internet to meet them. It's like the AARP version of a party at the Playboy Mansion. But Claire soon finds herself involved in a mystery - and with the handsome Mac who makes her toes curl just walking in the room.

The story is filled with twists and turns on all fronts. The romances and personal intrigues had me guessing almost as much as the mystery. Everyone seems to have an agenda and no one is completely open. As the silver haired sex-pots prance around in the desert heat, dark secrets are unveiled and the danger builds for Claire and Mac even as the heat between them ignites. This one gets two thumbs up and a stand ovation for laughs, sighs, thrills, and a excellently crafted mystery.

Whatever your favorite type of mystery, this one has it all - from romance to thriller - you're gonna love Dance of the Winnebagos. I can't wait to read more from Ann Charles. She is also the author of the award-winning Deadwood mystery series - Nearly Departed in Deadwood and Optical Dellusion in Deadwood.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

British Invasion - A Thrilling Fab Four by @mrneil98

For those thriller fans going through withdrawal since the release of Rollins’ The Devil Colony and Berry’s The Jefferson Key early this summer, I offer an alternative from across the pond. I have been enjoying the novels of several British authors over the last five years whose style and subject matter is consistent with the works of Berry, Rollins and Dan Brown. They are my Fab Four.

First up is Andy McDermott, the most prolific of the quintet. His debut, The Hunt for Atlantis, introduced his two recurring characters, Dr. Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase. Dr. Wilde is an American archeologist who continues to seek and solve many of the world’s greatest mysteries. Eddie Chase was hired originally as a bodyguard but their relationship has changed dramatically (and romantically) over the seven novels. McDermott’s novels are an entertaining diversion, reminding me of Matthew Reilly’s works.

David Gibbins is a writer who uses his educational background, a PhD in Archeology from Cambridge, to create believable scenarios and add credible historical background to his thrillers. His debut, Altantis, introduced his recurring cast of characters lead by Jack Howard, a marine archeologist, who is now beginning his sixth adventure. Gibbins books contain an excellent balance between historical background and modern day espionage.

Will Adams is the author of four thriller’s featuring archeologist Daniel Knox. His debut was The Alexander Cipher, followed by the superior Exodus Quest. Adams’ mixes historical knowledge with his own creative possibilities to create plausible storylines involving many of the world’s mysteries including Alexander the Great, Moses, Minos and Eden. (Note: Beware the changes in title from the original British to the American release name, i.e. The Exodus Quest becomes The Moses Quest.)

Last of the Fab Four is Tom Knox, not to be confused with Adams’ character Dan Knox. Knox is the nom de plume of British journalist Sean Thomas, who differs from the other authors by not involving recurring characters. Each of his first three thrillers create unique central characters and thrust them into life altering, as well as life threatening, situations. His debut The Genesis Secret dealt with fascinating findings in the oldest known settlements of Gobekli Tepe. Knox’s second The Marks of Cain was even better and truly demonstrated the incredible research that he conducts for each of his novels. I have been following him on Twitter @Thomas Knox and he has been documenting his excursions for his fourth and fifth books.

To fill the void until the next Rollins (summer 2012) or Berry (next Cotton Malone not until 2013!), you might want to try one of these British thriller writers. They educate with historical information while they thrill creating likeable characters thrust into death defying situations.

NOTE: I was originally going to review David Baldacci’s new thriller Zero Day but could not bring myself to pay $14.99 for the e-book on my Nook. The price crossed the line in my opinion. There are far too many books priced at less than one third the cost providing nearly as much entertainment. I almost balked when The Jefferson Key was $12.99 but in the end I caved. Not this time, especially since it is not an Oliver Stone and the Camel Club adventure.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crossing Over - An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Happy Halloween! I hope you all took my advice and purchased All Hallow’s Eve by @crafty for $.99 during the Bestseller For A Day. Remember to keep the lights on while you’re reading. This week I would like to use M. J. Rose’s In Session as an inspiration to other writers wishing to use their established characters as a medium for cross-promotion.

In Session is an e-short story utilizing Rose’s recurring character of sex therapist Dr. Morgan Snow in three vignettes featuring three macho thriller stars in unlikely, and often vulnerable situations. The first story, Extenuating Circumstances, uses Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone in an interesting exploration into Cotton’s past and possible reason for his unstable relationships. Ms. Rose is obviously a fan (and friend) of Berry’s and has believably journeyed into Malone psyche although I believe Cotton should have seen through the subterfuge.

The second story explores Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, a character many of the readers of this best selling series would love to know in further depth. Reacher saves Dr. Snow from a bombing in her building but not before baring quite a bit of himself.

The third story involves Barry Eisler’s John Rain. Although I am not familiar with this character, his actions seem natural and consistent with the style of action oriented male persona central to these books.

In Session is a very entertaining and enjoyable read for only $1.99 but the main reason for the blog is to encourage other authors to “crossover”. One of the last shows I used to watch regularly was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which would regularly have episodes where it crossed over with Angel. Author can use this same concept, as M.J. Rose has, to use their fan base to expose readers to new authors and their characters and visa versa.

This has been done on a very small scale by Steve Berry, James Rollins, Brad Thor and Raymond Khoury. Berry has shouted out Thor’s Scott Harvath, Rollins gave Cotton Malone an anonymous nod in The Black Order, as did Khoury in The Templar Salvation. Berry has in turn mentioned Rollins’ Sigma Force but now it is time to take it to the next level!

Already there is discussion on twitter and face book of a Rollins/Berry collaborative e-short story involving one of each of their characters. This should just be the first step. The ITW (International Thrillers Writers) is a tight knit group and the potential for cross promotion cannot be denied. There are numerous Reacher Creatures who have not yet become Malone Clones. How about an ex-Seal Team Sixer joining Sigma for an adventure (Mr. Thor and Mr. Rollins?). Or may The Chess Team (Jeremy Robinson) joining forces with Tyler Locke (Boyd Morrison). Lets get this done!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

All Hallow's Eve by Cristyn West reviewed by mrneil98

In honor of the season, I am mixing my thrills with a lot of fright this week. Last year I read (and enjoyed) Ms. West’s Plain Jane and was even more impressed by her 30 Pieces of Silver written under her real name, Carolyn McCray. What better way to begin Halloween week than with a scary story taking place on that very evening! The timing could not be better since All Hallow’s Eve has been selected as the Bestseller For A Day on October 28th and will be available for $.99.

All Hallow’s Eve centers on the brutal murder of a priest in his own parish and the realization that this is actually the fourth in a series of seemingly unrelated deaths, all committed by a serial killer. Ms. West has a wonderfully creative way to tie together the killings and a potentially controversial direction her thriller could explore. My only regret with All Hallow’s Eve is that it selected, instead, the more familiar, well-trodden path of the serial slasher/thrillers. While reading the final half of the book, I could see the movie version playing in my head, a combination of Wes Craven’s Scream films and Tobe Hooper’s superior, underrated Funhouse.

The book has parallel stories of police detectives investigating the murders and some teenage relations of the investigators preparing for a secret rave on Halloween. The party is on an isolated island and hosted by a demonic rock star. The strength of the story are the relationships, some strong, some tenuous. The fragility of their nature and their ultimate fortitude is what will appeal to many of the readers. Ms. West does a remarkable job satirizing Goth-Metal with Diana Dahmer, a thinly veiled mockup of Marilyn Manson. The media is also skewered during the festivities but not as literally as many of the teens. Warning: This novel is rather graphic in its violence, like the slasher flicks the book is paying homage to.

Cristyn West’s All Hallow’s Eve is wonderful Halloween entertainment and if you can wait until October 28th, and the Bestseller For A Day, it can be yours for only 99 cents. Wow!! That’s a lot of thrills for very little money. If you can’t wait, you can get the book now for only $2.99. Enjoy and have a Thrilling Halloween!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer reviewed by mrneil98

     I finished The Inner Circle three days ago and my mind is still racing. The final third of the book has so many twists and turns I thought I was on a Disney ride, but the literary journey was far more enjoyable. I have been a fan of Meltzer since reading Book of Fate several years ago and found it quite to my liking. His next, Book of Lies was even better in my opinion so I’m am not certain why I had hesitated when The Inner Circle was released. Perhaps I was reluctant, fearing another political potboiler and not wishing to mix my thrillers with politics. I should have known better from Meltzer.

     The Inner Circle is more about relationships (personal and family), teenage angst, fears and triumph than about politics. The protagonist is Beecher White, a 30 year old working at the National Archives in DC, who looks back at the past to avoid thinking about his uncertain future. His life is forever altered when his first crush, Clementine, unexpectedly reenters his life. Together they stumble upon the Culper Ring, a secret society formed by George Washington to assist the president with “delicate” matters. The ring has survived for over 200 years and is using the archives to pass secret messages to the current president.

Complications ensue and allegiances become blurred with Beecher not knowing who to believe or even trust. Meltzer is a master of secret and mysterious societies. He is the creator and host of The History Channel’s Decoded series, which had an episode in Season 1 on George Washington’s Inner Circle. His historical research aids lends creedence to the activities but what elevates The Inner Circle are the characters that make us care. Clementine is a walking dichotomy, tough and independent, yet vulnerable and in need of assistance. Beecher is honest and honorable, yet has to question his alliances and morals. Even the president is a multifaceted character, delicately balancing country and family.

The Inner Circle, recently released in paperback, is a wonderful way to while away the time as the days become shorter and the evenings become cooler. Hunker down with a thriller that keeps you guessing, but also caring, until the end.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Petroplague: A Review and Interview with author Amy Rogers

     One of the my favorite rewards of writing for ThrillersRockT is the opportunity to discover new authors. Amy Rogers is one of those pleasant surprises, and her debut novel, Petroplague, has earned a spot in the top five on my Best of Twenty-Eleven list. Amy uses her extensive science background and research connections to create an intense thriller (or SciThri borrowing from Forrest J. Ackerman) that balances technology with well defined, likeable and believable characters.
     The novel centers on Christina Gonzalez, a doctoral student, researching genetically modified oil-eating bacteria which break down unusable tar sands and produce usable natural gas. After sabotage by an environmental group, the bacteria are released into central LA and bring the city to its knees.
     The presentation of the scientific information never resembles a lecture but is an organic development of the plot similar to Crichton or Rollins works. The thriller is elevated above the norm by the wonderful characters that are battling the Petroplague. Christina is a multidimensional woman battling her conscience as well as her bacteria. Her sister, River, is a well-intentioned activist who is also conflicted with feelings of cause and guilt. The novel broaches ideas of family bonds and betrayals, while maintaining the urgency to contain the bacteria and find a solution.

     Amy has graciously agreed to answer some questions about herself, her book and her beliefs regarding our nations dependence on fossil fuels. For more information you can go to or (Preview the first chapter) To purchase Petroplague for half the price of a paperback visit amazon, or barnes and noble.

Tell us a little about yourself. Do you have a scientific background?

I’ve been passionate about science since elementary school; I competed in science fairs every year from 3rd grade on, and wanted to be a scientist for as long as I can remember. I went to Harvard and studied biochemistry as an undergraduate. But that wasn’t enough! I continued my education with the MD/PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis, specializing in immunology.

2.  While reading Petroplague I was reminded of Michael Crichton's works. Who were your influences when it comes to writing?

You make my day, putting PETROPLAGUE and the Great One’s name in the same sentence.
Yes, obviously, Michael Crichton is my #1 inspiration. In our novels we both link a high level of scientific accuracy to a sense of how technical achievements can go horribly wrong, even with the best of intentions. While I strive to imitate Crichton’s mastery of suspense on every page, I have my own voice and style. Other writers whose work I try to learn from include Richard Preston (THE HOT ZONE and Crichton’s beyond-the-grave November release MICRO), his brother Douglas Preston (RELIC), James Rollins (Sigma force novels), Jeremy Robinson (Chess team thrillers), CJ Lyons (“thrillers with heart”), and debut novelist Paul McEuen (SPIRAL).

3. Petroplague contains quite a lot of scientificinformation, both chemical and biological. What kind of research did you conduct for this thriller?

Having taught microbiology at the university level, I have an awful lot of technical information in my head already. Most of the rest I get directly from the scientific literature. For PETROPLAGUE, I did have to venture outside my areas of expertise and consulted directly with people from the oil industry.

4. Christina is a doctoral student working on her dissertation in biofuels. When you write, are you putting any of your own characteristic into the protagonist or supporting players, like River, her sister?

Writers synthesize characters from our own personalities and the personalities of people we’ve met, which is not to say that a particular character is ever “based on” a particular real person. In general, I’d say I’m more like Christina than River. Like Christina, I’m a stickler for following the rules; but also like Christina, I’ve learned to recognize the times when breaking the rules is the right thing to do.

5. Petroplague sets up a devastating scenario for a fossil fuel reliant nation. Do you see any hope for America and its dependency on oil? What direction should we be heading?

The research I did on Peak Oil for this book left me in a state of suppressed panic for some time. The consequences of a decline in global oil production are frightening, yet it is inevitable that at some point the decline will come. The hotly debated question is when will the peak occur? And will we be ready for it by having switched to renewable energy sources? Of course no one knows.
The best hope is that we will gradually make the shift away from petroleum before it’s too late to avoid massive economic disruption. That shift may be prompted by a gradual increase in the price of crude oil over time, by mandatory restrictions on carbon emissions, by political events that affect our ability to import oil from foreign countries, or by technological advances that make alternative energy competitive with oil.
Let’s all hope technology is the solution (as it is the least painful), and that it emerges sooner rather than later.

6. You are a member of the ITW. Can you tell us what their function is?

International Thriller Writers is the world’s finest organization for authors, fans, and industry professionals with a stake in writing page-turning stories of suspense. Primarily, ITW supports authors with networking, publicity, and their “summer camp for writers”—ThrillerFest, held every July in New York City. ThrillerFest includes two days of superb instruction in the craft of writing, a chance for aspiring writers to pitch their work to literary agents in person, and the highest density of NYTimes bestselling authors you’ll find anywhere. MrNeil, you were there last summer so you know fans are welcome! [See Photo of me with James Rollins and Steve Berry's arm. I will be there in a greater capacity next July.]

7. What is  next for Amy Rogers? Another science thriller or a venture in another direction?

The next (untitled) Amy Rogers science/medical thriller will be released in the fall of 2012. A physician/scientist couple withering in a loveless marriage must relive their greatest tragedy and confront their greatest fears when their gene therapy trial threatens many lives—including their own. Readers can count on plenty of cutting-edge biotechnology, ripped-from-the-headlines events, and fact-based medical science, including the most important medical problem men don’t want to talk about. In the meantime, I’ll continue working to make the premier destination for fans and authors of thrillers with scientific or medical themes.

Thanks Amy, and we are anxiously awaiting your next SciThri!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The New Paper or Plastic? by @mrneil98

In my life, I am asked one question more than any other, “Paper or plastic?” It always leads to a serious debate; is paper really more environmentally friendly? Will a plastic bag out live my grandchildren? Within the last decade, a new debate has emerged, “e-book or traditional book?” Some use the same environmental arguments, with both sides claiming to be “greener”. Traditional books last longer and are biodegradable, but e-readers can hold an entire library.

I consider myself a traditionalist, haunting the local libraries and reserving new thrillers months before their release date. Perusing garage sales and thrift stores, I’ve amassed my own library, which crowds my bedroom nightstand and ultimately fills boxes on my basement shelves. Sticking my nose in a musty paperback with pages dog-eared by multiple readers has always been my favorite past time. Then last November, I was cajoled by my family to take the leap. I am now hooked on my Nook. It is easy to use, convenient and allows me to purchase a book and begin reading within minutes.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the e-reader phenomena has been the ability for independent writers to get their works distributed to potential readers. For the last century, publishers have decided whose work was worthy enough for the masses, but e-publishing has turned the system on its ear. With support networks like the Independent Book Collective (IBC) and the Independent Author Network (IAN), writers not only have a path to publishing their work but also assistance with finding a market.

Through these networks, I’ve discovered authors like Carolyn McCray (30 Pieces of Silver), Cristyn West (Plain Jane), Doug Dorow (The 9th District) and many others who are now a part of my electronic library. Another bonus is that these books were purchased for a fraction of the cost. Next week, I will be reviewing “Petroplague” and interviewing its author, Amy Rogers. Amy is a member of the International Thriller Writers and her blog can be found at

I truly have become an e-book convert and at this summer’s Thrillerfest, I shamelessly asked my favorite writers to autograph my Nook, which surprisingly has become a fairly common request at these gatherings. As for my personal collection, some I will donate to my high school, others to the local library, but the hard covers and paperbacks signed by Rollins, Preston and Child, Morrell and Boyd Morrison, I will hang on to for a while.

In recent years, I skip both paper and plastic and bring my groceries home in a reusable cloth bag. I have also discovered a third way for getting my “thriller rocks on”, the audio book. I tend to listen to novels that I’ve previously enjoyed and I’m often surprised and entertained by the vocal talents’ interpretation of the action. So what’s the best way to experience a good read; paper, plastic or spoken word? You tell me! Leave a comment.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Reviewed by @mrneil98

Growing up, I was a connoisseur of horror films, often gravitating toward the quirkily titled hoping to find a petunia in the onion patch. I endured dozens of clunkers like Jesse James meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, The Thing With Two Heads and Invasion of the Bee Girls for every gem like Blood Splattered Bride. These films rarely terrified but would entertain with a combination cleverness and, often, unintentional humor. Therefore while perusing the aisles of Barnes and Noble,  I could not help but be attracted to a book titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter featuring an iconic black and white photo of Lincoln with red, bloody hand prints trying to conceal an axe behind his back. Could this be the book equivalent of those horror film favorites of my youth?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is Seth Grahame-Smith’s follow-up to his best selling debut Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Being neither a fan of Jane Austin nor literary zombies, I passed on Grahame-Smith’s first attempt. Still I have always had a soft spot in my heart for vampires, so I gave Abe a chance.

The story begins when a struggling writer is given journals by a mysterious patron and is asked to create a manuscript from them. The books are penned by Lincoln and describe his life-long mission to destroy vampires, after realizing his mother was a victim of the creatures. Under the tutelage of a vampire turncoat named Henry, Abe destroys a gaggle of blood-drinkers while becoming embroiled in politics. The nation is on the brink of a civil war which was brought about by the vampires themselves to keep slavery, a valuable source of nourishment. Along the way, Abe befriends Edgar Allen Poe, debates Stephen Douglas and fails to assassinate Jefferson Davis before the War.

Grahame-Smith has crafted a well written story that truly captures the voice of Lincoln and the nineteenth century speech. He has thoroughly researched his subject and weaves fact and fiction so well it becomes difficult to differentiate between the two. The introspective nature Lincoln’s journal conveys struggles with loss and depression even contemplations of suicide. This is a serious work and this is where I have my reservations about the book.

I was incorrect with my expectation of levity, but the title seems to indicate a level of non-seriousness. I did find myself, however, drawn into the story and wondering how Grahame-Smith would skew the various accomplishments of Lincoln life toward the supernatural. The read is engrossing if ultimately unfulfilling, due mostly to my ill-conceived prejudgment.

While researching this blog, I discovered that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is in production and will be a major release next summer, with blockbuster aspirations. If they stay true to the book, I know not to expect a campy horror film but, if they want fannies in the seats, I suggest balancing the fear factor with deliberate absurdity. The Lost Boys does this exquisitely and I suggest the filmmakers inject some farcical elements into the secondary characters while Lincoln stays true to Grahame-Smith’s original vision. I would love to add Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to my list of all-time favorite horror films right behind Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, I Bury The Living and Blood on Satan’s Claw.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Michael Crichton - My Thriller Father By @mrneil98

In the spring of 1971,  I was twelve and sitting with my friend Randy in a dark Suffern, NY movie theater. We were two boys who couldn’t sit still in school, yet neither of us had moved in over an hour. I felt the blood rush from my face and my mouth was agape at the action unfolding on the screen. As the rolling credits snapped me back to my senses, we excitedly discussed what we had seen, debating the merits of the film and the scientific implications of the extra-terrestrial virus code named The Andromeda Strain. For Randy it was a cool movie, for me it altered my choices in film and, more importantly, in books. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Michael Crichton novel.

For me, Crichton is the father of the medical/techno-thriller. While I explored science fiction and mystery on page and screen, I found myself returning time and again to this genre often not knowing the influence of Crichton. My favorite film of 1973 was Westworld, where a “Disneyland” for grown-ups, populated by androids goes horribly wrong. Later, I would realize the movie was written and directed by Crichton. He also adapted  and directed Robin Cook’s medical thriller Coma.

Crichton used his medical background, a M.D. from Harvard, as well as his undergraduate major in Physical Anthropology, to write with authenticity and create some of the most innovative thrillers of the last forty years. Whether using biotechnology to create dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (1990), nanotechnology in Prey (2002) or genetically modified organisms in Next (2006), Crichton has had his finger on the pulse of the next big push in science, as well as what could possibly go wrong, often through corporate greed or negligence. The take-away message from many of his novels seems to be proceed with caution.

Perhaps Crichton should have taken his own advice before State of Fear (2004), a thriller about global warming and eco-terrorism. His selective use of research in casting doubts concerning global warming caused an uproar in the scientific community. While the Appendix cautioned against politicizing science by drawing comparisons to the eugenics program of Nazi Germany and Lysenkoism or agrobiology of the Soviets, the novel led to serious, polarized debates, the exact thing Crichton warned against.

Michael Crichton died three years ago at the age of 66. Pirate Latitudes was completed at the time and was published a year later. Also found on his computer was Micro, a thriller that was a third of the way written. There were notes and a character list with descriptions. Richard Preston, a master of scientific thrillers including The Hot Zone, was selected to complete Crichton’s original vision. The novel will be released on November 22 and I hope it will be a fitting finale to a remarkable career.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Tenuous Trek: From Book to Big Screen By @mrneil98

Encouraged by my adult daughter, who tore through the Suzanne Collins trilogy in less than a week, I read The Hunger Games and found myself completely engrossed by the struggles of protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. I found the tale a fine balance between action and tension, triumph and heartbreak, all within 275 pages. Evidence of my true feeling for the book was the period of time between completion and purchase of the sequel, Catching Fire, -- about two minutes! However, my haste did not entirely stem from enthusiasm, but was expedited by that abhorred news my daughter broke, “They are turning it into a movie.”

Among the ultimate goals of many authors are a position on the prestigious New York Times Bestsellers List, and a financially rewarding movie deal. As a reader, I dread having one of my favorite novels turned into a film. Over the next few years I will apprehensively await a Sigma Force film based on James Rollins’ series, a Gideon Crew film based on a Preston/Child book and a TV series based on David Baldacci’s King/Maxwell series. My hopes will rise as the release date approaches only to be dashed, like so many times before. Let’s face it; Hollywood has a poor track record for converting print to film, with few exceptions.

Case in point, Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. For those unfamiliar with the novel, it introduces Aloysius Pendergast in a classic murder mystery with monstrous overtones set in the Museum of Natural History in New York, a locale frequently used by Preston/Child. Hollywood’s first alteration was to change the title to The Relic, minor at first appearance but the original had multiple meanings where the film title is a singular object. Their next mistake was to relocate the film to the Natural History Museum of Chicago, a nice museum but it felt wrong when you consider the significance of the NYC’s Museum of Natural History in the conceptualization of the novel. (Preston formerly worked at MNH and had an after-hours excursion with Child that inspired the novel) Even so, the most grievous error by the filmmakers was the elimination of several characters including; Bill Smithback, a writer featured in half a dozen books and Pendergast himself!

There are numerous other examples of thrillers that did not translate well to the big screen. The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons were completely unconvincing and held none of the novel’s suspense. Sahara was the second failed attempt at filming a Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt adventure, after the long forgotten Raise the Titanic. Kubrick’s The Shining made me angry and Pet Sematary made me walk out of the theater. Shutter Island, however, was closer to my vision of Dennis Lehane’s creepy manuscript, and was consequently more enjoyable. And perhaps this is where the problem lies; my vision.

When I am enjoying a book, I am watching a film in my mind. When the action on the big screen differs greatly from what I’ve imagined, I have a difficult time accepting another’s vision. Similarly, the casting can shine a negative light prescreening, as was the case of Tom Hanks playing Robert Langdon or Steve Zahn as Dirk Pitt’s sidekick, Al Giordino. Perhaps I am too harsh a critic and I know that it is hard to get everything right.  The film Silence of the Lambs, however,  gives me a tenuous hope for these upcoming releases.

As I watch the recently released teaser trailer for The Hunger Games, I can feel that little seed of hope growing, but I will try not to let my expectations get the better of me. Still, it would be nice to leave the theater saying, “Yeah, that’s how I saw it!”

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Is This Labor Day or Christmas? by @mrneil98

I look at my calendar and check my PDA just to be certain. No, this is the beginning of September not the end of December. This is not an aberration, it must be the Indie Book Blowout! I had recently seen the posts on Twitter but was reticent  about inquiring until I realized I needed new reading material. I have difficulty reaching out to new authors and leaving my comfort zone.

Out of curiosity or desperation, I click on the link and peruse the titles offered. I select Pandora’s Grave by Stephen England and The Schliemann Legacy by D. A. Graystone. Hundreds of pages of thrills and entertainment for a total of $2.12. What the heck? I just paid $11 to be marginally entertained by Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark for less than two hours but these two book will engage me for about ten hours each! 

There is no better way to end the summer than a visit to the Indie Book Blowout. As a potential author, I recognize the time and effort necessary to produce a novel. To make it available for $.99 is a way of telling the reader that their effort is more about the product than the profit.  Although if you like this one for $.99.…….

Sunday, August 28, 2011

First Foray: Choosing a Topic for Your Debut Thriller, by @mrneil98

As is the case of many avid readers, I have a desire to write. Although my dabbling in gothic horror in the late seventies took a backseat to career and family took forefront, I continued to read, shifting genres from horror to mystery to history to thriller, with many of my favorites encompassing some combination thereof.  Now with my career settled and my nest mostly emptied, I’ve been  re-examining the possibility of writing, this time focusing on the thriller genre. Here-in lies my conundrum. What should be the topic of my first foray?

I have read novels by scores of thriller writers, following many from their first to their most current publication. Utilizing my mathematics background, I analyzed a number of first novel themes. Although the range was wide, I’ve determined that the topic should either be Atlantis or the Knights Templar (at least if you go by mode, since I‘m not sure how to average themes).  As a writer, you wish to focus on an area of interest for the readers and these are two popular topics for writers trying to create a market.

Often it takes an author several books to become an “overnight sensation”, like Dan Brown or Steve Berry. Each had two or three previous books overlooked or rejected outright. It wasn’t until The DaVinci Code with underlying Templar themes, that Brown became a force and readers revisited his previous three works. Similarly, Steve Berry’s third novel, The Templar Legacy, was his breakthrough publication that allowed his previous works (The Third Secret, The Amber Room) to reach a market. There are many other authors that chose the Knights as their preliminary offering. Raymond Khoury hit the NY Times  bestseller list with The Last Templar (and revisited with his fourth The Templar Salvation) and Paul Christopher has also created a  series of Templar books.

Atlantis is another mystery that has intrigued readers, and consequently writers, over recent years. It seems that many writers searching for an initial foothold have explored the mystery of Atlantis. The lure has not only  attracted initial publications like; David Gibbons (Atlantis), Andy McDermott (Hunt for Atlantis), and Thomas Greanias (Raising Atlantis), but established writers have explored the Atlantis phenomenon in novels like Atlantis Found by Clive Cussler and even James Rollins’ YA series with Jake Ransom.

As I reflect on these repeating themes, I attempt to derive a unique perspective but alas, so many writers and so few topics. So where do I go with my first  endeavor?  Atlantis or Knights Templar? Can I merge them somehow? Has that been done yet? At the very least I, like both the aspiring and successful writers who came before, will always have the Nazis to fall back on. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Cold Vengeance" by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Post by @mrneil98

I have eagerly awaited the release of the new Aloysius X.L. Pendergast  installment, Cold Vengeance for a year. Let it be known at the outset, that Preston and Child have created a tense thriller to compliment the rest of the series. I will elaborate in a bit, but first, a diatribe that was initiated by George Lucas and The Empire Strikes Back.

The year was 1980 and I had just graduated college. I paid my $3 and sat with friends to watch this sequel to Star Wars. I was awed by the story and visual effects, which contained several huge surprises; Han Solo gets captured, Luke and Darth Vader duel and Luke loses a hand but gains a father. Then the credits started to roll. I remained firmly planted in my seat, not because of the sticky floor, but because I was waiting for the remainder of the movie.

“It’s the second part of a trilogy”, my friend said, as if this would alleviate my dissatisfaction. It did not. To this day I have not seen Return of the Jedi or the other three films, and will not, until I get a written apology from George Lucas and my three bucks back! This experience has made me suspicious toward the “middle child” of literary and cinematic trilogies. 

The second tale of a predetermined trilogy must often struggle with an “identity crisis”. The elder book has set the stage and is lavished with praise while the youngest, last installment gets the attention with a satisfying conclusion but the middle story is often neglected and unfulfilled. While Cold Vengeance is the middle book of the Helen trilogy, Preston/Child had an earlier trio centering on Pendergast’s evil brother, Diogenes. That middle book, Dance of Death, was the best of a strong triad, so my hopes were elevated but unfortunately I came away thinking this book should be subtitled, The Pendergast Strikes Back .

Vengeance begins where Fever Dream ended with Pendergast investigating the death of his wife Helen. It opens with a bang in Scotland (literally), and eventually makes it back to New York where a large part of the action takes place. Returning are Vincent D’Agosta and now college student Corrie, from Still Life With Crows. The action is very intense and there are many scenes with authentic and sustained suspense. While revisiting the Vengeance for this blog, I appreciate it more the second time. Still, I did have that unsatisfied feeling at the conclusion, which I hadn’t felt  with Dance of Death. Both novels leave you with cliffhanging endings but Dance seemed to be more of a complete work. I think part of the reason is that the conclusion, Book of the Dead, was already on the shelf. This time I must wait a year for the finale of the Helen Trilogy.

Cold Vengeance is a wonderful read as the summer winds down, provided you read Fever Dream first. Be warned that you will need to delay your immediate gratification since the conclusion, Return of the Pendergast is a year off.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"The Silent Girl" by Tess Gerritsen

Another rock out loud thriller novel from a female author.  I don't say this like it's some kind of shock or surprise when it happens, but rather because I continue to notice a rather sexist bent within our not-so-little community of thriller readers that slants towards male authors.  So much so that many thriller authors of the female persuasion choose to use their initials rather than put out there that they are women.

Enough's enough already, guys.  Let's get completely over this particular little quirk and just... move on.  These women are creating thriller fiction that is fun, fast-paced, adrenaline-filled and un-put-downable.  They also manage to infuse a level of perspective and flexibility into their story telling that male authors will occasionally let slide.  And I'm a guy.

Okay.  Done with my soap box rant.  This novel's a winner.  Sure, if you're not into paranormal stuff permeating your straight-up-thriller, you may be a little bugged, but keep reading.  This one will grab you by your unmentionables and keep tugging while you breathlessly beg for more.  Good stuff.  Really good stuff.  Oh, and if you're new to Tess Gerritsen, this is her 9th (yes, NINTH) Rizzoli and Isles novel.  So, if you like, there's more where this puppy came from.  Lots more.  Plus a TV series and stuff.  :)

And if you don't dig on the thrillers, the interesting bent this one has will serve to introduce you a bit more gently to this genre.  It's cool.  It's dark.  It's intense.  And it's just an absolute page-turner.  So give it a shot and let me know what you think!

You can buy The Silent Girl here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oh Baby, It's Cold Inside (These Thrillers) Post by @mrneil98

Yes, I know it’s summer and it’s supposed to be hot but these last two weeks have been extreme. Several days in triple digits, topping out at 106 in Newark, NJ last Friday. One of the greatest challenges was rotating the ice cube trays properly so there would always be some available. During this time I finished reading Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston, a non-fiction about a serial killer terrorizing the Tuscany section of Italy. Fascinating story and reflects on the current Amanda Knox case, particularly in the handling of the investigation but that is a blog for another day. Looking for a new novel I perused my bookcase and was immediately drawn to titles like The Ice Limit, Ice Hunt and Iceberg. I began reflecting on thrillers I have read with a frigid setting and a “chilling” title.

After eliminating dozens of “Ice” titles (whether Black, Blue, Crimson or with Fire) due to the use of ice as slang for diamonds, I whittled the voluminous  pile to my top four with an honorable mention from the same author. While I tried to achieve the initial cooling off from the title, the setting of the novel is far more important to plummeting the temperature of our psyche. So here they are in David Letterman-esque countdown form:

4.            Iceberg by thrill master Clive Cussler. An early Dirk Pitt (when I devoured them) where a Viking ship is found incased in, well, you can guess. Although a little dated technologically, Cussler is an excellent storyteller who influenced many of the current generation of writers. Every time I read a Rollins novel with Gray Pierce and Monk Kokkalis interacting, it reminds me of Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino.  Honorable Mention: Artic Drift also by Cussler, co-written by his son Dirk. The later Dirk Pitt adventures also have his twin adult children that magically appeared around the fifteenth book of the series. This book centers around mysteries involving the Northwest Passage.

3.            The Shining by Stephen King. Although the title does not immediately give you that arctic blast, the setting is a snow-bound Colorado hotel in the dead of winter. King masterfully uses the weather as a tool to further isolate Jack Torrance. The book is amazing but the movie is a huge disappointment (as with most film versions of novels). Where the written word leads to tension and suspense, the film caused unintended laughter.  Honorable Mention: Misery by King. Again, the snow-bound setting, although this time back home in Maine. One of the few books that translated just as well to the screen thanks to an amazing performance by Kathy Bates.

2.            Ice Hunt by James Rollins. This pre-Sigma chiller features the abandoned Soviet Ice Station Grendel, which may not be completely empty. The ice station is located on an island of ice. This novel introduces the character of seaman Joe Kowalski, now a member of Sigma and an excellent source of humor to relieve the tension of the moment. Rollins spun him off with a 2005 short story “Kowalski in Love” then he became “the muscle” for Sigma and now, as of The Devil Colony, a full member.  Honorable Mention: Doomsday Key by Rollins. Although not entirely set in the frigid climate, a good portion takes place in Norway and in particular the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Besides, I must include any book where the heroes are rescued from certain death by a rampaging herd of polar bears.

1.            The Ice Limit by Doug Preston and Lincoln Child. A billionaire is after a meteor that he believes is on an island between South America and Antarctica. An earlier novel that introduced the intriguing engineering genius Eli Glinn, who returned in several Pendergast books and now is the mission provider of the Gideon Crew series.  Honorable Mention: Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child. A solo venture about the discovery and thawing of new species of prehistoric cat, the book is simultaneously a thrilling creature feature and a satire of current television entertainment. It works wonderfully on both levels.

There are so many more cool books to chill with during the dog days of summer but I recommend losing yourself in the wintry terror of one of these featured titles.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"One Good Turn" by Kate Atkinson. Guest review from @ScullyLovePromo

I don’t usually choose crime novels when selecting fictitious fare, although I have read my fair share of them in the past (John Grisham, Stuart Woods, Mario Puzo, John le CarrĂ©). However, One Good Turn by Edinburgh-based, bestselling author Kate Atkinson was a welcome change of pace and a literary mystery novel that unravels several crimes slowly and with great intrigue as well as humour. Atkinson’s characterizations are so detailed and the plot so complex that I really don’t know what to say about it that will do it any more justice than all the professional, critically acclaimed media reviews that have come before. It was an absolute delight to read and one helluva gripping page turner!
One Good Turn is set in contemporary Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which for me, made for an interesting backdrop because I’m such an Arts lover and I’ve always wanted to attend the Festival. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t as much detail about it as I’d hoped but it didn’t put me off the rest of the story and it does include a has-been stand-up comedian named Richard Mott to lend authenticity. Although the book reintroduces former police inspector turned man-of-leisure millionaire Jackson Brodie and his aloof actress girlfriend Julia (who I didn’t like one bit but has a play running at the Festival which is why Brodie’s in Edinburgh) from Atkinson’s previous novel, Case Histories, you don’t have to have read it to enjoy the suspenseful One Good Turn.
The plot revolves around the participants in and witnesses of a fender bender that’s immediately followed by a brutal road rage attack. This action sets the stage for a series of exciting and complicated events that are all interrelated but we don’t know exactly how until the end of the story, which concludes in a matter of four days, in one of those whopping A-HA moments!
The narration oscillates between the main characters which include an asexual, diffident but thriving crime novelist named Martin Canning (a.k.a. Alex Blake who writes about a 1940s English female detective named Nina Riley and is vaguely reminiscent of Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote) who witnesses the baseball bat beating by thug Terrence Smith of unsuspecting motorist Paul Bradley. Martin reacts by throwing his laptop at Smith which knocks him off of Bradley just in time for the police to step in and then Martin finds himself accompanying Bradley to the hospital and strangeness ensues.
The incident is also witnessed by Jackson Brodie (who additionally discovers a female floater in the bay which sets up an equally interesting subplot), Archie Monroe and Gloria Hatter, a middle-aged, wealthy woman with a penchant for following rules, who is ironically married to criminal construction tycoon Graham of Hatter Homes – Real Homes For Real People – and stands as the moral center of the story.
Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Louise Monroe is struggling with a 24/7 career that leaves little time for her to keep an eye on her 14-year-old son Archie, who goaded on by his buddy Hamish, may or may not be sinking into dark waters that are too deep for him to tread…or is that Brodie who is falling deeper and deeper into the mystifying peripheral events of the story?
One Good Turn embodies really great storytelling and even the secondary characters will keep the reader enthralled.
The novel also includes a conversation with the author at the back of the book, questions and topics for discussion if chosen by a book club, and the first chapter of Atkinson’s subsequent novel, When Will There Be Good News?, which gives One Good Turn’s Chief Inspector Louise Monroe and Jackson Brodie another mystery to solve.
Jackson Brodie also stars in her latest novel, Started Early, Took My Dog and according to Atkinson’s website he will soon be appearing in a six-part television series adapted from Case HistoriesOne Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News? for BBC One. Now, I’ll have to go back and read all of these books because I know they’ll make for some terrific television! But who will play Jackson Brodie?! (I think Colin Firth or Eric Bana might be a good choice!)