The Copper Bracelet (Harold Middleton #2), by Jeffrey Deaver (and fifteen others in the International Thriller Writers)

Eight stars

Under the auspices of a new form of writing project, the International Thriller Writers (ITW) worked to create a second audiobook story in this series with many top-name contributors. This book is again led by the opening and closing chapters by Jeffrey Deaver, along with many other members of the ITW group. Harold Middleton is front a centre for another adventure, hunting down terror suspects with NATO. After a shoot-out, Middleton discovers that one of the victims is sporting a copper bracelet with unique markings. Calling in some assistance from his close friends, Middleton discovers that bracelet has ties to a group with an interest in ‘heavy water’. As Middleton seeks to trace down the potential threat, he discovers that there is more to the story, including a mysterious Scorpion, a faceless leader with plans to bring major devastation in the near future. With a massive construction project in India turning heads around the world, there is speculation that Scorpion might strike. The project, already raising anger between India and Pakistan, could be the tipping point of a new regional war, centred in Kashmir. Middleton thrusts himself into the middle of it all, learning how disastrous things could get if Scorpion is not stopped, only to learn that there are others with invested interest in the terror plot, which could significantly disrupt the international balance of power. Another great collaborative effort that allows the reader to see many writing styles synthesised into a single novel. Recommended to those who like literary patchwork of this nature and fans of international mysteries.

I vaguely remember reading the first two books in this series, when they were newly released on Audible. I enjoy the premise of putting many authors together to carve out a decent story, offering them each a small piece of the pie. The story is strong and the constant character advancement provides the reader a definite treat as things progress, much like the series debut. Harold Middleton returns with more adventure and has shown that his amateur sleuthing, paired with some firepower, leaves him ready to tackle any international situation. Surrounding himself with a handful of returning characters, Middleton is able to work his way through the story, showing both his power and a personal vulnerability in the form of his family. The twists and turns cannot always be predicted, with so many authors in the mix. That said, there is surely succinct development within each chapter, as the author has only a short time before they hand it off to another. The story is a great collaborative effort for something of this size. The reader who can fathom the complexity of intertwining so many writing styles in a single piece will not be as judgmental with the final product. This effort is one that will have me turn to Jeffrey Deaver, who took on a solo effort to pen a third novel in this series.

Kudos, Mr. Deaver et al., for completing another of these unique writing assignments for readers to enjoy. I have always loved the challenge the ITW pushes on its members to work outside their comforts to appease the reading public. A brilliant idea properly executed.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Matchup, edited by Lee Child

NIne stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Lee Child (editor), and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

When asked to take the editorial lead in the latest International Thriller Writers (ITW) anthology, Lee Child jumped at the opportunity. What might be daunting for some–herding twenty-two well-known authors together like feral cats–turned out to be a great pleasure for Child and, in the end, the reader. This compilation pits writers into teams of two to concoct a wonderful series of short stories. Each author was asked to bring their ‘A’ game and a favourite protagonist, in hopes that having to share the page (and the locale of each story), which ended up being a little more difficult than simply parachuting characters together. Child’s other hurdle was to place a male and female author together, a ‘matchup’ of epic proportions, to see how they could work together. The end result saw readers treated to the ‘what if’ of forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan working alongside ever-travelling Jack Reacher; bibliophile Cotton Malone living history and the standing stones through which Claire Randall met her beloved in Scotland; and Philly lawyer, Bennie Rosato, crossing paths with the King of Sarcastic Comments, John Corey. Where else would you find a Minnesota cop who wants to fish in the middle of a major crime bust at a cabin in Montana, or a woman who speaks to the dead through their buried bones outside of Alexandria? Child is able not only to find the ideal matches for this anthology, but also sends the reader into a tailspin as they are presented with a number of never before thought-out possible storylines. Child is masterful, though a great deal of praise must go to all who took the time and effort to pen eleven wonderful stories. Surely something of a summer gift for the reader to enjoy poolside.

I have always enjoyed collections such as these, especially when the ITW gang comes out to play. There are so many out there and since the genre is so wide, one is never entirely sure what to expect. Child presents these stories in no particularly themed order, but the end result turns out to be something that is high octane from start to finish. While I tend to gravitate to the crime and legal thrillers, there are many that push outside of my comfort zone, though I cannot find a single story that did not captivate me, even when the narrative flirted with the paranormal. I have a large ‘to be read’ list, but reading these stories has left me wondering if I ought to check out some new authors and their characters, as they intrigued me, even during the brief encounter of a short story. Pitting sub-genres against one another and character professions that were sure to clash, these authors ironed out the difficulties and left the reader with a polished product, perfectly balanced and ready for easy literary consumption. While I could have read these stories for hundreds of more pages, I realise that there is a limit to the number of submissions and authors used, though I am eager to see what is next for the ITW in the years to come.

Kudos, Mr. Child, et al. for such a great anthology. I am hooked to these collections and love the cross-section of story writer that emerges from these classic matchups. Please keep sharpening your skills for the next editorial call out that is sure to arise.