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Friday, June 13, 2014


5 stars out of 5

This book, a compilation of short stories, gets 5 stars from me not so much because of enjoyability, but rather because it's such a unique work. Where else - except for previous versions featuring different authors - could you possibly find so many top-notch thriller writers in the same book, not to mention with characters paired up as never before and probably never again?

Edited by equally well-known author David Baldacci, sales from the book benefit the group International Thriller Writers, to which all these guys and gals belong. The anthology includes 11 stories, all co-written by two writers (in one case, three). Now that I've finished them all, I'll say up front that they're not equally good; in fact, only four of the 11 would get more than 3 stars were I to rate them individually. But as I implied at the beginning, this book is truly a Gestalt: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I'll also acknowledge the possibility that my subconscious was helping to sway my opinions; when I took a closer look at my four favorites, it turns out all four are by authors whose characters (and writing styles) are quite familiar to me. Hopefully that's not the case; but even if it was, a few characters in other stories intrigued me enough that I intend to look for books by that author with an eye toward reading them. And (beyond beefing up the writers' group coffers), isn't that really the name of the game?

For the record, my very favorite story, "Rhymes with Prey," pitted Jeffery Deaver with John Sandford (John Camp in real life), with Deaver's Lincoln Rhymes meeting up with Sandford's Lucas Davenport. And therein began my suspicion that familiarity breeds familiarity; just recently, I finished Sandford's new Field of Prey and Deaver's The Skin Collector - so maybe, just maybe, those were still on my mind when I made my choice. 

Other noteworthy (to me) collaborations here are "The Devil's Bones" by Steve Berry and James Rollins, featuring characters Cotton Malone and Gray Pierce; "Good and Valuable Consideration" by Lee Child and Joseph Finder with characters Jack Reacher (thankfully, with Tom Cruise nowhere in sight) and Nick Heller; and "Gaslighted" by primarily children's book author R.L. Stine and the team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child with characters Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy and Aloysius Pendergast. 

And for the record, the other stories are:

"Red Eye," by Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly (characters Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch

"In the Nick of Time" by Ian Rankin and Peter James (John Rebus and Roy Grace)

"The Laughing Budda" by M.J. Rose and Lisa Gardner (Malachai Samuels and D.D. Warren)

"Surfing the Panther" by Steve Martini and Linda Fairstein (Paul Madriani and Alexandra Cooper)

"Infernal Night" by Heather Graham and F. Paul Wilson (Michael Quinn and Repairman Jack)

"Pit Stop" by Raymond Khoury and Linwood Barclay (Sean Reilly and Glen Garber)

"Silent Hunt" by John Lescroart and T. Jefferson Parker (Wyatt Hunt and Joe Trona)

Author biographies are at the end, and an introduction to each story provides some background as to how and why the story was developed (all very interesting, BTW). In short (pun intended), this is an excellent effort all-around and I hope the group continues to publish others now and again.

FaceOff by Lee Child, Michael Connelly and others (Simon & Schuster, June 2014); 384 pp.

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