Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Kevin O'Brien, DISTURBED: A Powerful Thriller

The book business is changing.

That's the only explanation for why a powerful thriller like Kevin O'Brien's book DISTURBED is coming out as a "paperback original" from Pinnacle (Kensington Books). Even a year ago, a book like this from an author who's hit the top lists so often would inevitably come out in hardcover first.

But not today.

The plus is, readers can pick this up for a "paperback price" and still get nearly 500 pages of intense, emotional, and meticulously plotted suspense, focused on a small and slightly dysfunctional family living on Willow Tree Court, in a suburb not far from Seattle (where the author lives). Molly Dennehy left her Midwestern past to marry Jeff, accepting his children and the aggressive -- even mean and cruel -- presence of Jeff's ex-wife not far away. But the kids are far from accepting Molly. For one thing, their mother teaches them firmly not to do so, and to spy on the "new wife." For another, unacknowledged tensions run through the household -- about teenage son Chris's school counselor, now a suicide; about accusations from the ex-wife that Jeff's a philanderer who'll never change his ways; about Molly's struggle to maintain her career as a significant artist.

And when murders begin to accumulate in the community, it's easy for some people to point to Molly and say, "Bad luck arrived when she came here."

O'Brien is a Hitchcock devotee, and it shows in the spooky setups he provides: nasty housewives pecking each other, creepy psychopaths taking aim at self-satisfied families, kids tormenting each other for showing their vulnerabilities. But DISTURBED varies from the standard thriller with the powerful guy who shows his stuff by tackling the criminal physically after tracking him down. Instead, this one is driven by Molly's determination to protect her new family in ways that she couldn't for her old one. With no martial arts, no firearms, no police training, no military past, she's out there being a persistent and outspoken mom -- well, stepmom -- doing what she has to, at enormous cost.

And who's to say the kids will even appreciate it? And what's the scratchy voice on the phone trying to do to her by puncturing her husband's nicely crafted double life?

Last but not least, could it all have something to do with the serial killer haunting the region -- the Cul-De-Sac killer?

Make sure to leave some extra lights on, and double-lock the door, so you won't have to keep getting up to check on them. DISTURBED is a haunting, psychologically intense thriller that deserves plenty of readers. Originally announced for May, it's now scheduled to release around April 26.

While I'm waiting, I'll be looking for Kevin O'Brien's other books. He's touring on the West Coast; watch his website to see whether the "new" book business grabs this one and pulls him out to visit the rest of us.

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