Deaver pulls off backwards kidnap tale with great deal of panache
Thrillers The October List Jeffery Deaver Hodder & Stoughton, €18.70, tpbk, 256 pages
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In the pantheon of great contemporary American thriller writers, Jeffery Deaver occupies a very special place. A former folk singer, journalist and corporate lawyer, Deaver became a published author in the late 1980s with a number of stand-alone thrillers. He hit the big time in 1999 with the publication of The Bone Collector, the first of his mysteries to feature the quadriplegic NYC detective Lincoln Rhyme and his assistant Amelia Sachs.
Since then, he has sold tens of millions of books, is translated into 25 languages and published in 150 countries.
Deaver is famous for the surprise twists and turns he builds into each of his books, and the opening of his latest thriller, The October List, delivers as stunning a twist as he has ever written. The novel starts on page 297 and Chapter 36. This is a thriller written backwards. The central character, Gabriella, is sitting in an apartment in Manhattan, anxiously watching the clock. Her daughter has been kidnapped; she has shot and killed a man; she's trying to evade the police and negotiate with the kidnapper. He's a killer who wants the October List and a great deal of money; the door opens. . .
In a conventional thriller, we would be told what happened next. Here we are told, in Chapter 35, what happened exactly 40 minutes earlier. The challenge that Deaver set himself in The October List was to present the twist – the reveal – before giving the facts that led up to it. He has said that he was surprised at the complications he was presented with in trying to write the timeline backwards.
But the real question is, does it work – is it a good thriller?
To be honest, this reviewer found it a little hard going initially. But as the picture of what has gone on in the hours and days before the reveal begins to build slowly, the reading experience is akin to taking a terrifying roller-coaster ride strapped in facing backwards, which is much scarier because you can't see what's coming. Deaver keeps throwing curve ball after curve ball, and by the time one gets to the beginning of the story and, paradoxically, the end of the book, the adrenalin is really pumping. An interesting experiment pulled off with considerable panache.
For those who might prefer their Jeffrey Deaver edge-of-the-seat thrillers in the more conventional beginning, middle and end format, the good news is that his eleventh Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs adventure, The Skin Collector, will be published in early May 2014, and before that, in March 2014, there's the bonus of a volume of 15 devious short stories from this master of deception called Trouble in Mind.
– Myles McWeeney