First, let me go on record: I loved the movie Memento. If you haven’t seen it, it tells the story of a man who is attacked and gravely injured. His wife is killed in the same violent incident. The man – Leonard – is left with the inability to make new memories. He is determined to solve the crime, but every night, what he learns disappears while he sleeps. Night time Leonard leaves himself messages, so that tomorrow’s Leonard gets up to speed quickly. The movie is absolutely mesmerizing, and while we move forward in time as Leonard investigates, we also move backward in time as Leonard follows the clues. The ending is shocking.
So I was immediately intrigued by Jeffery Deaver‘s new thriller, The October List, which features a similar conceit. The story begins a 6:30 one Sunday evening, as a woman and a man wait together in a Manhattan apartment. It soon becomes apparent that the woman’s young daughter has been kidnapped, she’s been injured, and the two are waiting together for the child’s safe return.
The next scene begins at 5:50. Then 4:00. Each scene is a sliver of the story, which is revealed in reverse chronology. Who are all these characters, what do they mean to each other, what crime has occurred, and what motivates the action? You find out while unpeeling the onion. It all kicks off on page 285, on Friday afternoon.
You could read the book from back to front. In fact, Deaver seems to subtly encourage this by numbering the chapters from 36 to 1. All suspense would disappear, so don’t do it! Reading it as presented ramps up the suspense and the ending is a surprise. (Hint: the list itself is a MacGuffin.) Still, it’s not like a Sixth Sense surprise, where you are shocked and amazed and saddened. It’s more of an Agatha Christie surprise: an intellectual, rather than an emotional, surprise.
I appreciated the challenge and Deaver pulled it off well. If the premise intrigues you, you’ll enjoy the book.