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: