5 stars (out of 5)
Quick: When was the last time you read a book from finish to start?
Well, this one gives you that chance. The October List takes place over a three-day weekend, starting on Sunday with a frenzied investment firm office manager named Gabriela whose young daughter has been kidnapped. A relatively new friend and venture capital fund manager has left her to go deal with the kidnapper, who's demanded a $500,000 ransom plus a mysterious document called the "October List" that belongs to her boss, who's gone missing (along with most of the firm's money) and is being sought by police. From there, everything moves backward in time, with each chapter revealing new clues as to how the first chapter (which really is the last) came about.
Honestly, if I were judging this one on the plot alone, I'd probably stick with a four-star rating; it's a good story, but not that good. But the creativity of writing a whodunit starting with the last chapter first - and pulling it off in great style - is worth the extra star and then some.
I'll also admit to two other things: First, it's not all that easy to read; for at least the first half-dozen chapters, in fact, I was pretty sure this wasn't my cup of tea. But mostly, I think, that happened because our minds just aren't trained to see and do things in reverse order - just try writing a sentence backward. So as the chapters moved along, I had to work at remembering the who's who and what's what that happened before (or more accurately, after). The second admission is that when I finished the book, yes, I went back and read the first (last) chapter once again to make sure all the ends were properly tied in my mind.
Despite my five-star rating, I don't think this book is for everyone - certainly not anyone who enjoys a tried-and-true approach to writing (and reading). I also hope this bit of nonconformity doesn't start a trend, because no matter how well written I think this book is, I'm not chomping at the bit to read another one like it. But for those who like a bit of a challenge - and a pretty darned good mystery - I say it's definitely worth a try.
The October List by Jeffery Deaver (Grand Central Publishing, October 2013); 320 pp.