A Thriller with Too Few Thrills

I’m reading a thriller now where there’s a terror plot aimed at New York City, and I picked it up for several reasons.

I grew up in New York; one in-law was in the first World Trade Center bombing; and two family members might have been nearby in the second, more terrible attack if traffic hadn’t held them up that day.

The book is embargoed–which means the publisher doesn’t want reviews until a certain date–but it raises a problem that I can talk about without spoilers or revealing the famous author’s identity.

Though I write mysteries, I’ve never been great at figuring out other people’s killers or unraveling their plots–unless something is painfully obvious.  Which means the author has goofed and the editor has collaborated in that mistake.

There’s a Michael Connelly thriller whose title I forget now, probably because I was so disappointed.  At around 150 pages in, a character is introduced whose name made it clear–to me, anyway–he was not who he seemed.  I kept wishing I was wrong for the next few hundred pages, but I wasn’t.

In the thriller I just finished reading, New York City’s anti-terror unit begins to suspect that a hijacking plot they foiled might actually be a cover for something else.  As soon as I read that, I knew who the secret terrorist was.  This character is exotic, sexually attractive, soft-spoken, and consistently trying to avoid attention.  The author has worked so hard to point suspicion away from this character that the overkill in pointing made it unbelievably obvious: this was the evildoer.

I kept hoping I was wrong.  But when the meant-to-be shocking revelation was offered up to the reader, I felt as grossed-out as when one of my West Highland White Terriers brought me a bit of rabbit he’d found in the yard.

Camouflaging your killer has to be done subtly, not make the reader feel like he’s in the Monty Python sketch where someone keeps elbowing a man at a bar saying, “Nudge, nudge, know what I mean?”

What makes the book even more painful is that it’s so terribly written, but that’s the subject of next month’s blog.

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4 Responses

  1. It takes a talented author to craft a mystery and/or thriller that doesn’t deceive the reader, but doesn’t bore him, either.
    I’m looking forward to next month’s blog!

  2. I suspect I know what this book is… and for anyone who thinks Lev may be picking on an unknown thriller writer, think again. This is someone who is a bazillionaire from his work in a different medium, and should be held to a high standard!

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