Up front, I didn’t do so well with this one. I didn’t come close to fully reading any of the books I picked. I’ll break down my thoughts on each book, which I did at least skim. As for the adrenaline genre, in addition to the required sense of “thrill”, the overarching element to each book was of time compression. Things have to happen quickly–with the tension appropriate ratcheted–and the author has to convey that in a way that makes sense to the reader, but also makes sense for the story. I thought each of these stories handled this genre hallmark well.
Winner: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
Annotation from The Reading List: “Each morning, Christine wakes with no memory. From the clues she left herself, she tries to piece together her identity and sort lies from the truth. The unrelenting pace thrusts the reader into the confusion of a waking nightmare in which revelations of her past lead to a frantic crescendo.”
My thoughts: I can see why this was the winner, and I think the majority of the reason was the diary format of the bulk of the book. The set days gives the story impetus and drive. The author’s style is one of immediacy. The tense of the story is primarily present tense and is told in the first person. These are all huge pluses if you enjoy this style of storytelling. I generally do not which is why I allowed myself to get distracted from reading it. I didn’t dislike the story per se, but without this challenge, I don’t know that it’s a book I would pick up on my own.
Shortlist selections: Spiral by Paul McEuen and You’re Next by Gregg Hurwitz
No annotation for shortlisted titles.
My thoughts: I’ve read neither of these in full, but the one I’d be more likely to read is “Spiral” by McEuen. The reason for this is the biological weapons plot line. Two of my favorite non-romance reads were books by Richard Preston: “The Hot Zone” (non-fiction about biological weapons) and “The Cobra Event” (fiction about biological weapons). McEuen uses a trick similar to Watson in that he divides the story up into days, again to impart the time limited nature of the story. Skimming through, I appreciated the tropes of the core plot being rooted in World War 2, the passing on of the torch to find the cure to the next generation, the political maneuverings surrounding the issue at hand, the assassin stalking the main players, and the romantic interest that develops. Definitely for fans of Preston.
As for Hurwitz’s entry, I can absolutely see why he made the short list. This story is more of the “every day man with a murky past who must fight against the world to save his innocent family” variety of adrenaline/thriller stories. Like Watson, this isn’t my preferred subgenre when reading adrenaline — frankly, that’s more in the spy/former-spy area. Hurwitz is great at setting scenes and drawing you into the emotions of his characters. If you enjoyed the movie “A History of Violence”, you may enjoy “You’re Next”.
2012 Adrenaline book: The Expats by Chris Pavone
I have not read this yet, but it’s been getting a lot of buzz from my librarian friends. Thanks to the Library Marketing team at Random House for sending me an ARC of it. I do look forward to checking it out!