Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Watchlist: Two Serial Thrillers in One Killer Book

The two “serial thrillers” offered in Watchlist are the product of the collaborative effort of 22 of the finest thriller writers in the world. Among the authors participating in the project are: Linda Barnes, Lee Child, Lisa Scottoline, Erica Spindler, David Hewson and Jeffrey Deaver (who created the basic characters and wrote the first and last chapters of the two novels). The Chopin Manuscript was first offered as an audio book and was named 2008 Audio Book of the year by the Audio Publisher’s Association. Its follow-up, The Copper Bracelet, throws several of the same characters into a new adventure some two years after the conclusion of the first book.

And as bad as The Chopin Manuscript is, The Copper Bracelet is equally as good.

The two books have much in common but one gets the sense that the authors did not really hit their stride with the concept until the second book. The Chopin Manuscript reads less like a cohesive novel than it does a competition among its 15 writers to ensure that their individual chapters contain more outlandish action than the chapter immediately preceding theirs. So little time is spent on character development that the rapid-fire adventure seems to be happening to cartoon characters rather than to real people – and the constant losing-and-regaining of the upper hand plus last second rescues of main characters will test the patience of readers.

The Copper Bracelet, authored by 9 of the first book’s 15 writers, plus 7 new ones, spends more time developing characters and explaining their motivations. As a result, although much of the action in this second book is every bit as wild as that in the first, readers will find it easier to suspend their disbelief because of the emotional attachment they will feel toward this story’s characters, hero and villain, alike.

Harold Middleton, a former military intelligence officer who has more recently functioned as a war-crimes investigator, is the main character in both books. Other recurring characters include Middleton’s daughter Charlotte, a talented young Polish violinist called Felicia Kaminski, and several members of what Middleton calls The Volunteers, a small group of trusted colleagues who help him in his investigations and who are willing to share the violence directed their way by those wanting to stop their snooping. The collection’s finer villains, in particular, Devras Sikari, his son Archer, and their female accomplice, Jana, are reserved for the second book.

Watchlist transports its readers from Virginia to Washington D.C., Poland, Italy, Pakistan, Kashmir, London and Paris, among other stops, with much violence and nonstop action sure to be had at each location. Despite the unevenness of the two stories, this one will appeal to thriller fans and readers intrigued about the process by which the two books were written. The second book is such a huge improvement over the first, in fact, that I find myself hoping that the authors will collaborate on a third.

Authors of The Chopin Manuscript: Jeffrey Deaver, David Hewson, James Grady, S.J. Rozan, Erica Spindler, John Ramsey Miller, David Corbett, John Gilstrap, Joseph Finder, Jim Fusilli, Peter Spiegelman, Ralph Pezzullo, Lisa Scottoline, P.J. Parrish, Lee Child

Authors of The Copper Bracelet: Jeffrey Deaver, Gayle Lynds, David Hewson, Jim Fusilli, John Gilstrap, Joseph Finder, Lisa Scottoline, David Corbett, Linda Barnes, Jenny Siler, David Liss, P.J. Parish, Brett Battles, Lee Child, Jon Land, James Phelan
(Review copy provided by publisher)

Rated at: 3.0


  1. Funny, I just finished 2 more Lee Child novels and am reading a Jeffrey Deaver. This new team effort does sound interesting!

  2. I really enjoyed the second book, Jenclair, right up to the rather unbelievable way Deaver tied up all the lose ends in a long conversation between one of the bad guys and the chief good guy in the last few pages. I'd rate that one a solid 4, though. The first one is a 2, at most, and I had to give the book an overall 3 which might be misleading.