Saturday, May 12, 2007

A White-Hot Bullet Right Between The Reader's Eyes!
Duane Swierczynski has, with the publication of The Blonde become one of the new next-gen crime writers I’m watching. He’s an editor-in-chief of a major Philadelphia newspaper, so his lean, muscular prose come to him naturally from a daily grind. The imagination is purely his, but it’s a new twist on a lot of the old noir-style books and movies that I love so much.

I never know what to expect from his characters. In The Blonde I wasn’t even sure who the good guys were until the final pages of the book were sorted out. It was a great ride, and I couldn’t stop turning pages once I’d started. I’d read the warnings on the book posted by other writers and reviews, but they really meant it.

His previous release from a mainstream publisher came in 2005. The Wheelman was a blistering read that kept you glued to the story in a merciless grip. See, Swiercynski has this take-no-prisoners mentality that just grabs the reader by the throat on page one, introduces a problem the protagonist has to handle just to survive, then turns the tables on him (and the reader!) before another 15 or 20 pages have gone by.

Reading the twists and turns of his plots is like constantly getting surprised by an opposing boxer’s hooks and jabs slipping right through your defenses. No matter how ready you think you are, you keep getting smashed and broken up, and get left wondering how it’s all going to shake out.

The Blonde has one of the best opening sequences I’ve seen in a long time. A woman in the Philly airport tells Jack Eisley, the main character, that she’s poisoned his drink and he’s going to be dead in eight hours. He blows her off, thinking she’s just weird. And the reader watches as Jack gives her the slip and walks away. Normally there would be something that would prevent him from doing that.

Not in Swierrcynski’s world. He finds a reason to make the protagonist give in and go back to the airport hoping to find the woman, Kelly White. Jack’s nausea and vomiting convinces him he has been poisoned, so he returns for the antidote. Only the woman fesses up to him and tells him she actually needs him because she’s infested with nanobots that will kill her if she’s left alone.

Okay, we’ve suddenly entered the Twilight Zone as our crime thriller goes into Michael Crichton overdrive.

Then we pick up the next main character. His name is Kowalski. He’s an operative for a super-secret government organization. A close reader will remember him from The Wheelman, and I thought it was great that Swierczynski rewards his fans like that. The author’s building quite a little violent family out in Philly. But he’s not afraid to kill them off, either. This is the same territory comics legend Frank Miller carved out for himself in Sin City.

Kowalski has been killing Mafia guys off the clock on his own time as revenge for the death of his girlfriend and their child. That plotline goes back to the previous novel, but it isn’t necessary to have read it first. It does add to things, though.

Now Kowalski’s been given a new assignment: Find a professor and bring back his head. Kowalski never even flinches at the prospect. It’s all business to him. But his business goes south in a hurry as events go awry.

Swierczynski’s characters are all interesting people, but I wouldn’t want to meet any of them. None of them care for much outside their own skins. But, man, they are an absolute blast to read about.

The Blonde is a white-hot bullet of a story that hits the reader right between the eyes. Taking place in less than nine hours, the story will leave you breathless with anxiety and brimming with anticipation of what’s going to happen next. It’s a race to the finish as Swierczynski wheels this high-octane, V-8 thriller for the checkered flag.


Katie M. said...

the cover for this one is cool. but so was the one for 'the wheelman' very edgy!

I'm going to wander over to amazon to vote, hope you make top 1000 reviewer soon! :)

Mel Odom said...

Thanks, Katie. The votes are pushing me ever upward. I appreciate it!