I’ve been a long-time fan of Deaver’s well-executed serial killer novels starring his dynamic duo Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs. His next series with Kathryn Dance was less inspired, and when he wrote the Ian Fleming knockoff Carte Blanche, I was worried that the old Deaver magic had gone walkabout. So I was happy to learn that Deaver has re-discovered his creative flair for the original and the bizarre in The October List. Don’t get me wrong—the writing itself is not stellar and the characters are far from deep. But his decision to write a book in reverse—that’s right, his first chapter is the end of the story, which goes steadily backwards in time with each successive chapter—was a self-challenge in creativity which brilliantly exercises the mind of the reader as well. It may be gimmicky, but it is great fun!
Single mother Gabriela MacNamara has just learned (1) that her beloved boss is actually a financial advisor to criminals, and has just skipped town with millions after learning of an imminent police raid and (2) her 6-year-old daughter Sarah has been kidnapped by one of those criminals, who wants Gabriela to come up with half a million dollars and a list of her boss’ other “advisees,” the so-called October List. Gabriela had just met a gorgeous rich guy named Daniel when her whole life blew up, but fortunately, he knows some influential people who are going to help her find the October List and get her daughter back. And Daniel, clearly besotted with her, is sticking to Gabriela like glue.
Meanwhile: two cops are keeping close watch on Gabriela; a man in a bright yellow shirt is following her and Daniel as they race against the kidnapper’s clock; a nerd friend of Gabriela’s has an unhealthy fascination with blood and knives; and people are getting shot, stabbed and run over by trucks as Gabriela and Daniel run from pillar to post, trying to meet the ransom demands while keeping out of the hands of the cops now on their tail.
Simple, right? Apparently not. As we gallop from chapter to chapter, some of them going back just 15 minutes in time and others many hours, we begin to unpeel layers on a very stinky onion. I know I gasped a few times and laughed a few times as new wrinkles kept getting added to the story. I’m not going to say any more for fear of revealing too much, except that if you love mind puzzles and are not afraid of a challenge, you’ll love this.