Barry is back today
with his review the short story anthology
Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can’t Put Down. After you read the review make sure you check
out Patti’s blog and check out
2: STORIES YOU JUST CAN’T PUT DOWN (2009)
by Clive Cussler
by Barry Ergang
Edited by Clive Cussler, who supplies
an introduction and a preface to each of the twenty-three stories in this
collection, Thriller 2 is the sequel
to a previous volume of short stories by members of International Thriller
Jeffery Deaver: When U.S.
intelligence agencies learn about “The Weapon,” they also learn they have only
four days to identify exactly what it is, where it will be deployed, and by
whom. Will they be able to do so in time to stop it?
Blake Crouch: Keeping the young
boy and his father under surveillance, what exactly is Mitchell’s motive, and
what kind of “Remaking” does he hope to accomplish?
Harry Hunsicker: In “Iced,” murder
comes easy to Tom, a formerly respectable banker and family man, as long as he
has Chrissie and the drugs and the prospect of living large in Costa Rica.
Mariah Stewart: Because of Deanna’s
cowardice, her friend Jessie is assaulted, and thus severely traumatized, by a
gang of punks. Determined to see “Justice Served,” Deanna sets out to avenge
Jessie—with nightmarish unintended consequences.
David Hewson: Melanie, a
temporary employee at the Palace of Westminster, has traveled “The Circle,” the
London subway system, since she was a little girl. Today’s trip and arrival
will be considerably different ones.
R.L. Stine: Wayne swears that
he’s innocent and has a “Roomful of Witnesses” to prove it after his coworker
Leon pays a price for abusive behavior at The Haven, a facility for elderly
Readers won’t soon forget either the witnesses or the abused
residents in this jewel by an author best known for his books for children.
Phillip Margolin: From the time her
mother brought her as a child to it, Monica Esteban dreamed of living like a
princess in “The House on Pine Terrace.” Opportunity presents itself when she
meets Dan Emery and they fall in love. But when do things ever go that smoothly
in crime fiction?
Marcus Sakey: His army service
earned Nick post-traumatic stress disorder and Cooper’s friendship. Now the two live in Las Vegas and
Cooper needs Nick’s help, as he did after an incident in Iraq. For Nick, “The
Desert Here and the Desert Far Away” mix unpleasant memories from the past with
danger in the present in a story persuasively told in the second-person.
Carla Neggers: Ill-prepared for
the weather conditions and the terrain but “On the Run,” the fugitive has
kidnapped Gus Winters and demanded that Winters lead him to a specific location
high up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Whether one or the other or
both will die of hypothermia eventually becomes the question, provided the
fugitive doesn’t use his gun first.
Robert Ferrigno: The accountant’s
hands are bound behind his back as he leads Briggs and Sean through swampy
ground to retrieve the ledger they want before they kill him. It’s amusing up
to that point, but once he asks, “Can You Help Me Out Here?” it becomes even
funnier. Carl Hiaasen fans—and I’m one of them—will likely love this one.
Joe Hartlaub: When in “Crossed
Double,” C.T.’s son Andy gets himself into trouble with loan shark Kozee, Dad—with
growing annoyance and as matters become more complex—has to bail him out.
Lawrence Light: “When the man he’d
killed a year ago walked into the bar, Joe Dogan was surprised. So surprised
that he fell off his stool.” So begins a wry story about life and politics in
the environs of southern New Jersey as they relate to “The Lamented” Brad
Acton, his friends, associates, and enemies.
Lisa Jackson: Private detective
Lucas Parker has been hired by his former brother-in-law to provide security
for a formal gathering at the D’Amato Winery in a powerful tale of personal angst, a dysfunctional
family’s secrets, a lust for revenge, and “Vintage Murder.”
Tim Maleeny: Author Jim
Masterson is no longer merely a writer; he’s become a brand whose name on a
book cover means sales in the tens of millions—even if the book was
“co-written” by someone whose name appears in smaller type. When his editor
shows up and says that if he doesn’t
finish his latest manuscript in forty-four minutes, Jim’s wife Emily will be
killed, Jim isn’t sure if the situation requires a “Suspension of Disbelief.”
I have to add here that I find it
ironically amusing that Thriller 2
was edited by Clive Cussler, and that its predecessor—which I haven’t read—was
edited by James Patterson, both of whom are “brands” whose names appear in
large type on the covers of a multitude of novels “co-authored” by lesser-known
writers who, I suspect but cannot prove, did most (possibly all) of the actual work.
Sean Chercover: Tom Bailey runs a
charter boat and isn’t particular about most of his clientele. But the man who
calls himself Diego proves to be a different story entirely, “A Calculated
Risk” whose motives are suspect and upon whom Bailey’s life hinges.
Javier Sierra: Professors in
America, Madrid, and Mexico are being murdered in a ritualistic manner. Solar
storms and eruptions threaten the Earth. Is one of them the Big One that a dead
scientist was investigating? What events might lead to “The Fifth World”?
Gary Braver: Former best-selling
author Geoffrey Dane hasn’t been able to sell anything for quite awhile, and is
currently teaching a writing course at a local college to make ends
meet—barely. Lauren Grant asks him to be her “Ghost Writer” for a book idea she
has. But who—and what—is she, and is that all she really wants from him?
Kathleen Antrim: “It’s time to kill
my husband, Izaan Bekkar. The forty-eighth president of the United States.” So
opens Sylvia’s story—Sylvia, who knows what the public does not, and who experiences
it “Through a Veil Darkly.”
David J. Montgomery: Li Jinping is
officially the Cultural Attaché of the People’s Republic of China. In his
unofficial capacity he’s a spy. A very inept one, as well as a horndog with two
mistresses in the D.C. area and a predilection for hookers. Hitman Jason Ryder
has been hired to make it a permanent “Bedtime for Mr. Li,” the more
embarrassingly the better.
Simon Wood: Nick is more than a
little smitten with Melanie. Unfortunately for him, her brother Jamie
disapproves and warns him off as though he’s “Protecting the Innocent.” When
Nick digs into Melanie’s past, it seems obvious than Jamie has been unduly overprotective—and
Joan Johnston: Before leaving for
his tour of duty in Iraq, Carter Benedict asked his brother Nash to “Watch Out
for My Girl.” Nash has complied—to the point of falling in love with firefighter
Morgan Hunter. The morning after he impetuously kissed her, she’s gone missing.
While trying to resolve her own feelings, Morgan drives into murderous trouble
she might not survive unless she gets some help—and soon.
Jon Land: Fallon, a skilled
professional killer who likes his work, is a man in hiding, posing as an
English teacher at the Hampton Lake Middle School. He’s ill-prepared for that
position, but no longer just “Killing Time” until he can leave the country when
his pursuers, who want him dead after he botched a job, track him to the school
and imperil the student body and staff.
Ridley Pearson: “Boldt’s Broken Angel” is the final and longest story in the book,
a police procedural that emphasizes forensics. Amateur jazz pianist and police
detective Lou Boldt, aided by partner John LaMoia and Daphne Matthews, investigates a missing persons case that leads
to a particularly deranged serial killer.
Whereas most such collections contain
some stories that are stronger and more engrossing than others, Thriller
2 is an exception. I found every story totally engaging. Moreover, none is
like another. Plot, tone and style vary
widely, providing the reader with different takes on what constitutes a
thriller. The only caveats are raw language and some scenes which, while not flagrantly
explicit, might just be graphic enough to repel some readers. Those who find
these elements offensive are advised to stay away. Those who don’t will find
this a very entertaining read.
© 2015 Barry Ergang