A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Get stirred

I enjoyed J.A. Konrath's Shaken, the previous Jack Daniels thriller just fine, but was glad to get back to more traditional (that is, not multiple timeline-oriented) storytelling this time out with Stirred, its immersive, epic follow-up.  Stirred does throw us one curve ball, however: this time Konrath teams up with fellow thriller writer Blake Crouch to deliver this ambitious, stirring (sorry, couldn't resist) story.

And stir you up this book will likely do. I mean, c'mon: the main antagonist is essentially a serial killer and a James Bond villain rolled into one, and- as if that isn't enough- you also get a handful of supporting serial killer characters who were strong enough to be the main villains in past stories individually produced by Stirred co-authors Konrath and Crouch.

And why am I comparing the central killer to a James Bond villain? Because he uses his vast resources to buy a small corner of a dilapidated city and convert it to his version of Dante's Inferno, complete with writhing, tortured souls (previously captured from a tour bus!), who are chained to everything. Then he goes after the people he really wants to torture, namely Jack Daniels and her friends- and drops them into that booby-trapped, deadly world, for his own amusement. Crazy stuff.

And get this: Amid all the horror (and there's a lot of it) you still get this series' usual big laughs, clever banter, and touching character moments, to help break up all the torture, murders, and dismemberments. Oh, and how's this for another distraction from the dark doings: Jack Daniels spends the whole novel about to give birth! Which, come to think of it, functions as both a distraction from the horror and an underscoring of it. After all, would you want the kicking baby in your belly to be born in a dungeon full of corpses?

And about the co-author thing: Blake Crouch must write a lot like J.A. Konrath, and have many of the same obsessions and thematic interests, because this two-author book isn't schizo at all. It just feels like the latest J.A. Konrath Jack Daniels thriller, just bigger, better, and more intense.

I was skeptical when Crouch and Konrath decided to combine their characters and situations into one universe, thinking it was a problematic, self-indulgent idea probably generated from too many beers at a mystery writers convention. But this final (for now) Jack Daniels book, where Konrath's heroes meet Crouch's baddies really turned out to be intense, moving, page-turning fun.

Who would have thought Kindle time could be so cool?

Stirred is available on Kindle for $3.99, or is free to borrow by Amazon Prime members.

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