A killer read
Suspend disbelief and enjoy this fast-paced thriller about a menacing manuscript.
CHRIS Pavone is an American writer based in New York. His first book, The Expats, became a bestseller and was translated into more than a dozen languages. It also won the 2013 Edgar Award and the Anthony Award for Best First Novel and is due to be adapted as a movie by CBS Films.
Pavone’s writing has gained praise from the likes of fellow suspense writers Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell and Michael Connelly. The Accident, Pavone’s latest thriller, will no doubt be stacked high on airport bookshop shelves right beside their books. Upon release in March, The Accident instantly became a US bestseller.
As with many thrillers, The Accident follows a familiar structure, using the points of view of several different characters who initially get their own chapters and then, as the book advances their stories, gradually intersect and overlap and ultimately lead to the obvious denouement that is telegraphed in a none-too-subtle manner from about halfway through the book.
Despite the predictable and unchallenging nature of the plot, I still didn’t get bored reading The Accident. It is a template for what a thriller should be, with all the ingredients weighed out in the correct proportions, including suspense, romance, betrayal and deceit, greed and intrigue, a believable and sympathetic protagonist, Swiss bank accounts, hidden identities, a globe-trotting range of locations including Copenhagen, Zurich and Los Angeles, but principally New York and its surroundings. In one brief episode I even recognised my old neighbourhood in Brussels.
Isabel Reed is the heroine of The Accident. She is a New York literary agent who mysteriously receives an anonymous manuscript that contains allegations against a high-ranking media mogul with important political connections. Some segments of the manuscript are featured in the body of the book as a way of providing a back story into the allegations and insights into the media mogul’s secrets of success.
Isabel immediately understands that if the book is made public it will topple the mogul’s media empire and have grave political ramifications – but most importantly to her, it will sell millions of copies and save her flagging career. And both the potential editor and the publisher are also interested for similar reasons.
Given the incendiary nature of the manuscript, Isabel knows that it is important to keep it under wraps, but this proves impossible. Rumours quickly fly and get to the wrong ears. There are people willing to kill to make sure that the manuscript is never published, and sure enough, pretty soon the bodies start to drop, forcing Isabel to go on the run.
The gaping hole in this story is the fact that everything revolves around the manuscript, of which it is believed there is only one single paper copy. It will be obvious to any reader that it would be perfectly feasible for the author to save his book on several memory sticks, or send it by e-mail to as many people as he wants, or put copies of it on different online file sharing sites, or even self-publish it as an e-book. None of these possibilities are ever mentioned, or even alluded to, as to do so would destroy the pretext of the story, so there is a certain degree of willing suspension of disbelief required of the reader.
Apart from this flaw, The Accident is an exciting, page-turning read and a behind-the-scenes exploration of the publishing industry, where the characters are publishers, agents, acquisition specialists, fact checkers, editors, bookshop owners and, of course, the mysterious anonymous writer.
The publishing world might sound like a boring setting for a thriller but Pavone breathes life, excitement and passion into it. As well as being a thriller, The Accident is an exploration of an industry that is undergoing a huge mutation. The fact that Pavone is married to the president and CEO of Penguin Random House obviously has something to do with his intimate knowledge of the publishing industry.
His characters are very believable and the dialogue is spot on. The writing is unadorned and The Accident is an entertaining and untaxing but enjoyable and exciting read. At 380 pages it is long enough to keep the commuter or bedtime reader occupied for a while. If you enjoy thrillers and like books, then this one is highly recommended.