Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jeffery Deaver, EDGE: And Thoughts on Thrillers

Jeffery Deaver's 2010 stand-alone thriller EDGE recently became available in paperback -- a handy enough reason to take another look at this psychologically intense novel of "catch the hired killer before he gets to his target." Actually the plot is more subtle than that, because the ruthless killer, Henry Loving (ouch!), is only slicing throats and spraying with bullets as side effects to his actual goal: "lifting" information from someone, on behalf of a client who can afford to pay millions in expenses.

For protection officer Corte, working within a highly specialized team, Loving is the Moby-Dick of his career, and while protecting the threatened hero-detective Ryan Kessler and family is Corte's primary mission as a "shepherd," he's also aware of another side of himself, more akin to the fierce nature of a guard dog: He wants to get hold of Loving, end the hired hit man's career, possibly even his life.

Corte's mixed motives add to the tension that Deaver ramps up so well. If a move goes wrong, is it because Corte didn't focus properly? If casualties mount, is it a message from Henry Loving to Corte, taunting him? And how critically maimed is Corte emotionally, from his own life's experiences -- is his deformed emotional landscape lowering the chance that he'll be able to protect the Kessler family?

Reviews have called EDGE a fast-paced thriller, and Deaver is known for his psychological twists and intensity. I particularly savored EDGE because each page is tight, each action believable (within the given world of corporate and political espionage), each action impeccably choreographed. It's a pleasure to enter a book written by a master who never lets down his drive for emotional resonance and pitched movement.

It's also a good moment to reflect on what the "thriller" is, and is supposed to be. I like this recent version from modern noir author Dave Zeltserman:
It’s not necessarily the page-turning aspect that makes a novel a thriller—every piece of fiction no matter the genre needs to get the reader involved and interested enough to want to keep turning pages. What defines a thriller is that it needs to be thrilling—from the first page to the end it needs to keep generating thrills. There are other elements that are common among thrillers, such as the hero being in constant danger and a very loud ticking clock that’s ever present, but the most important aspect is having thrills and plenty of them. 
(For more, check out Zelterserman's full review of Godchild by Vincent Zandri.)

Not only has Zeltserman defined the thriller -- he's also set the bar high for good fiction. That is, the term "page turner" should be a compliment. And in that sense, Deaver's got the bar well jumped.

P.S.: Mark your calendar for the June release of Deaver's next novel, XO, featuring Kathryn Dance.

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