Nothing Good Happens After Midnight, Jeffrey Deaver (editor)

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jeffrey Deaver (editor), and Suspense Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I have always found that you can discover the true mettle of an author by how well they can handle writing with strict parameters. Jeffrey Deaver tosses the challenge out to twelve other authors (as well as himself) to pen a short story apiece with a ‘late’ or ‘midnight’ theme. Each entry in this collection differs greatly from one another, with a stellar collection of published authors offering something for the reader to enjoy. A great collection of pieces that read with ease, perfect for those who are familiar with the authors or enjoy something a little shorter.

There is such a great cross-section of ideas in this collection that each reader will surely find something to their liking. Some will likely flock to Alan Jacobson’s piece about a death row inmate who may have some key information about a copycat. Others will enjoy Kevin O’Brien’s recounting of a man who hates technology, while still others may find the antics of Linwood Barclay’s piece about a graveyard shift at a newspaper something that tickles their fancy. Each piece is unique and entertaining in its own way and Deaver ensures there is no repetition at all. Quick reads on their own or a decent binge of shorter writing for those who wish to indulge. Whatever your fancy, watch out, as you’ll surely be sucked in, much like some of the characters in Deaver’s own entry in this collection.

The short story allows little time for character development, even if it is an offshoot of a series some will know well. Jeffrey Deaver does well at finding some wonderful contributors whose styles and abilities are surely second to none. Each story contains some strong characters, a few who are part of a larger series, others dreamt up for their debut in these pages. At approximately the same length, each story used plots and developments effectively, though uniquely, begging the reader to choose some of their favourites. With some strong writing overall, this is a collection not to be missed and I would love to see more of this in the future, as I know Jeffrey Deaver has created some wonderful and witty writing projects for many in the genre before.

Kudos, Mr. Deaver and your twelve other contributors, for a great collection of stories that really get to the heart of the midnight hour.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Buried, by Jeffrey Deaver

Eight stars

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/review-buried/

In a gripping thriller that pulls the reader into the middle of a handful of crimes, Jeffrey Deaver shows that his skills at short story writing are second to none. Intriguing in its delivery, Deaver is sure to leave the reader wanting more in one of the best pieces within the HUSH collection.

There are times when old journalism tricks, like listening to a police scanner, can produce the greatest scoops. That’s the theory Edward ‘Fitz’ Fitzhugh uses when trying to stay relevant in today’s digital world of newspapering. Fitz learns of a man whose been kidnapped, with a clue to his whereabouts. The alleged perpetrator calls himself The Gravedigger, an entity who struck a few weeks before in another state.

While Fitz is close to retirement, he’s come to realise that his style is a dying art, where pounding the pavement and checking with sources has been replaced with quick Google searches and mass-market news stories that are splashed across the Internet. He clashes with one of the hires that will take the paper into its digital era, unsure if he will be able to withstand the pressure to conform and write about what sells to the attention-deficit reader. There’s little time to lose, as Fitz tries to piece it all together in time for the editorial deadline.

Finding a witness to the apparent kidnapping, Fitz works the angle, while the clue to finding the victim proves fruitful. However, there is something more and Fitz cannot shake that flashing beacon in the back of his mind. Parallels between both kidnappings must exist, though nothing is as easy as it seems. When Fitz begins to peel back the truth, he becomes entangled in a web that could blow the Gravedigger case wide open. He’ll have to convince someone to listen to his arguments, or face a less than glorious ride into the sunset of his journalistic retirement. Nothing worse than having an important story buried for none to see!

I have read a few pieces by Jeffrey Deaver before and enjoyed them all. Each has a chill factor and a quick pace that does not permit the reader to sit back and simply absorb. Clues are embedded throughout and the action never stops, which made this longer story flow with as much or greater ease than its other HUSH collection cousins.

Fitz proves to be a useful protagonist, particularly as he tries to shine in an era when everything is cut and paste, surrounded by digital advertisements. The old school of journalism may be on the out, but Fitz refuses to conform and finds himself eager to make a different the only way he can. Deaver offers little backstory for the man, though there is decent character development throughout, culminating in an unlikely twist that ties the plot together.

With little time to develop them, Deaver tosses a few key secondary characters into the mix, all of whom play their part. The various perspectives of the plot allow these personalities to shine, shedding light on a plot that has little time to lag. While not everyone fits together in a nice package, the characters do well complementing one another effectively and keep the reader wanting more.

I always find that an author shows their abilities when writing short stories, as there is little time for slow reveals or pointless plots. These pieces are raw and require movement from the get-go, something that Jeffrey Deaver has no issue doing. A strong plot is pushed along by a well-crafted narrative that keeps the reader wanting more. Clipped dialogue and characters who are placed in key spots offer that secondary momentum with so much going on. Deaver has chosen not only the chapter, but the multi-part style of writing, offering cliffhangers and short segments to keep the reader forging ahead. I enjoyed how things went in directions I would not have expected, yet still came together effectively. Makes me want to open my reading schedule and hunker down with some series work by Jeffrey Deaver to understand him a little more.

Kudos, Mr. Deaver, for another wonderful piece. I have often told myself that I should take the time to read more of your work. This is proof that my instincts are spot on!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Starling Project (Harold Middleton #3), by Jeffrey Deaver

Eight stars

After two novels created by a collaboration within the International Thriller Writers, Jeffrey Deaver has decided to continue the series with a creation all his own. In an Audible exclusive, this full-cast dramatisation pulls the reader back into the middle of the action and adventures of Harold Middleton. As leader of the Volunteers—a loose enforcement branch of the International Tribunal for Justice—Harold Middleton finds himself in rural Mexico. With his full team of Volunteers and some UN Peacekeepers, Middleton attempts to serve a search warrant on a known criminal kingpin, though things take a violent turn. Fleeing the region, Middleton has two massive hard drives and word that a Starling Project might be in the works. While teaching a course at Georgetown, Middleton is called to the scene of an odd bank robbery, where he and the Volunteers are trying to free a number of hostages. Things do not go as planned, but a few more Starling leads come to fruition. Discovering the project is actually a single person’s plot to manipulate massive sums of money, Middleton will have to act quickly if he wants to prevent massive disruptions and the possibility of future acts of violence. Working in the world of finance and accounting, Middleton and his Volunteers are out of their comfort zone, but spurred along by the need to protect millions—even billions—of innocent lives. Deaver does well in this interesting piece, which mixes the excitement of the Middleton series with an interesting dramatic effort. Recommended for those who loved The Chopin Manuscript and The Copper Bracelet.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two novels in this series, listening to them in their original audiobook format. It was only when I chose to re-read the first book for my reading challenge that I discovered that Deaver penned a third novel in this series, or at least an audio equivalent. Harold Middleton played a central role again, which keeps the reader attentive to pick up any scraps about his character. Rather than adding to his actual backstory, Deaver delves deeper into exploring the International Tribunal for Justice and how it works, including Middleton’s role. It is an intricate organisation and Middleton plays a major role in its forward momentum. Readers familiar with the protagonist and his ‘second job’ will enjoy learning a little more. Other characters emerge to play key roles in the story, though I could not find any repeat characters from the past two novels. Still, the banter and development of many sub-plots was stronger with this collection of characters. The story proves to be a unique experience for those not used to ‘full dramatisations’. Quite honestly, it was as though I were watching a movie with my eyes closed, with different voices for each character and no narration. I saw some people did not like this approach, but I found it interesting, even if it were a little confusing at times. Deaver does well putting together this story and delivers it in such a way that the reader cannot help but feel right there. I know it has been years since Deaver published any Middleton work, but I would gladly keep reading if he, or the ITW returned for another round of thrills and chills.

Kudos, Mr. Deaver, for this interesting approach to the Middleton series. There is so much going on here and I did feel an active part of the story.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Chopin Manuscript (Harold Middleton #1), by Jeffrey Deaver, et al. [International Thriller Writers]

Eight stars

Under the auspices of a new form of writing project, the International Thriller Writers (ITW) worked to create an audiobook story with many top-name contributors. Led by the opening and closing chapters by Jeffrey Deaver, these ITW members created quite the story that mixes history, action, and a mystery that spans the globe. After working on international criminal tribunals in the Balkans, Harold Middleton is trying to make his way back to D.C. He’s stopped in Warsaw, but not because of the manuscript he has in his carryon. It would appear that a group with whom he was seen speaking died hours later. Middleton is baffled, but wonders if it might have something to do with the aforementioned manuscript. Middleton discovered this presumed lost Chopin piece while in Kosovo, but he is unsure of its authenticity. He wishes to look deeper, as it might be a Nazi relic used to communicate. When he is freed by Polish authorities and makes his way to Washington, another clash occurs and two policemen are left dead. Now, Middleton is sure that someone is seeking to find him and take possession of this manuscript, with nefarious intentions. He presumes it could be the infamous Faust, a man Middleton encountered while working in the Baltic region. When others close to Middleton are targeted, he can only presume that there is something within this Chopin manuscript that is more valuable than simply the notes, though he is still unsure what he has in his possession. He’ll need to act fast if he wants to protect those closest to him, as well as the larger population, from a madman’s plans. An interesting collaborative effort that allows the reader to see many writing styles bound together. Recommended to those who like collaborative efforts of this nature and fans of international mysteries.

I know I read this piece years ago, likely when it was newly released on Audible, but I could not remember much of it. With three instalments to the series, I thought I ought to return and read it, while also appending a review for others to see. The story is quite well developed and the constant character advancement leaves the reader fully involved in the process. Harold Middleton is quite the character, having been through a great deal over the years. He is not part of the formal police authorities, though his attention to detail and drive to solve the case gives the reader an interesting flavour for his sleuthing abilities, as seen through the eyes of fifteen authors. Others in the story work through some of the interesting thriller themes of the time (Balkan terrorism and fallout from the regional wars) and provide the reader with something interesting to enjoy. Succinct development within each chapter is essential before the author hands it off to another to further build on an aspect or leave it to wilt. The story was good for a collaborative effort of this size. The reader who can comprehend how hard it is to intertwine so many writing styles into a single piece will not be as judgmental with the final product. That said, the overall effort is one that has me rushing to get my hands on the sequel, written in the same style.

Kudos, Mr. Deaver et al., for completing this unique writing assignment and offering it up to readers. I have always loved the challenge the ITW pushes on its members to work outside their comforts to appease the reading public.

This book fulfils Topic #1: More Cow Bell in the Equinox #8 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Sequel, by Jeffrey Deaver

Eight stars

Needing a quick short story to end a day of reading, I turned to this Jeffrey Deaver piece, as it sounds quite intriguing. It did not let me down and had me rushing to finish it in a single sitting. Frederick Lowell has spent years managing the estate of one of America’s greatest authors. When Edward Goodwin penned his only novel, the country stood up and took notice, turning him into a hero overnight. Lowell receives a redacted letter indicating that there may be a sequel published before Goodwin’s death, the fallout could be monumental. It would not only quell the rumours of such a manuscript, but could help a new generation of American readers to fall in love with Goodwin again. Lowell follows some of the breadcrumbs left for him, discovering some interesting aspects of Goodwin’s life and writing style, all while the next generation of Goodwins await their royalty cheques. What Lowell discovers shocks not only him, but those around him, as it is a game of cat and mouse to locate and substantiate this apparent manuscript that could be invaluable. Deaver is full of wonderful ideas in this piece and he had me glad that I took the time. Recommended for those who enjoy a little dry wit in their short stories.

I admit that I have not read much Deaver in my life, but this piece has me wondering if I ought to change that soon. The story, while not out of this world, was compelling and had me hooked throughout. Frederick Lowell is a believable character and one whose ideals and curiosity trump his search for the almighty dollar. Others who pepper this short piece make enough of an impact to guide the story along and keep things light when they need not sink too deep in a quagmire of repetitive information. The story was well crafted and, truth be told, I could not help but supplant the Harper Lee connection within these pages. While I am not entirely sure if Deaver had a particular individual in mind for this piece, but Lee’s name kept surfacing, even if her life was anything but on par with that of Edward Goodwin. I’ll keep my eye out for more by Deaver and more generally the Mulholland Books collection, which is the collection that permitted this piece to flourish.

Kudos, Mr. Deaver, for a great effort. I may have to find more of your work and dive in, if it is anything like this short piece.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons