Review

Watchlist: A Serial Thriller

by Jeffery Deaver

The idea behind the two short novels that comprise WATCHLIST ---
THE CHOPIN MANUSCRIPT and THE COPPER BRACELET --- was truly
groundbreaking. Take the concept of a somewhat shadowy organization
called the Volunteers (headed up by a late middle-aged, ex-war
crimes investigator named Harold Middleton), whose purpose is to
hunt down war criminals and prevent new crimes from happening. Open
and close a book with chapters written by Jeffery Deaver, the
creator of the concept, then let the world’s top thriller
authors each contribute a chapter, taking the story in a
never-ending set of twists and turns from beginning to end.

There have been similar projects --- though not quite of this
scale --- done in the mystery, romance and science fiction genres,
but what is truly groundbreaking here is the manner in which THE
CHOPIN MANUSCRIPT was released. Not only was it an original
audiobook (one that earned a 2008 Audie Award for Audiobook of the
Year), it also released a chapter at a time on a weekly basis, thus
truly earning classification as a “serial thriller.”
Not content to rest on those considerable laurels, Deaver,
accompanied by a stellar cast of thriller authors, did it again in
2009 with THE COPPER BRACELET. WATCHLIST brings both works together
for the first time in print, the result demonstrating that the
experiment works as well, if not better, in the traditional book
medium.

THE CHOPIN MANUSCRIPT, as one might guess from the title, is
concerned with classical music, at least peripherally. Middleton is
bequeathed with what appears to be an original handwritten score
composed by Frederic Chopin that heretofore has never seen the
light of day. The score is both more and less than it seems,
however. Practically from the moment it passes into
Middleton’s possession, it begins to set off a chain reaction
of events that puts Middleton --- as well as his pregnant daughter
--- in terrible danger. He barely arrives in Washington, D.C. from
Warsaw before he is on the run, accused of murdering two policemen
even as he is pursued by a shadowy group of thugs who will stop at
nothing to get their hands on the document in his possession.

The only people whom Middleton can truly trust are his fellow
Volunteers, who themselves are hamstrung by government officials
who seem to be operating at cross purposes to them. Events reach a
climax when the work in Middleton’s possession is scheduled
to be performed by a young woman who is a virtuoso on the violin.
Her performance of the long-lost work will herald either a new
cultural era or provide the signal for the opening of an
unthinkable disaster.

While THE CHOPIN MANUSCRIPT is more of a plot-driven work, THE
COPPER BRACELET focuses more on Middleton and the personalities of
the characters involved, without detriment to the pacing, which, as
with its predecessor, moves along at breakneck speed. As indicated
by the title, the Copper Bracelet is the focus of Middleton and the
Volunteers as they race to prevent what appears to be the sabotage
of a major construction project that is fraught with adverse
political ramifications. The key to the plot seems to be contained
in the drawings of a bracelet worn by an assassin, and its
discovery sets off a chase that leads from Paris to Moscow to
Kashmir.

Middleton, aided by the Volunteers --- one of whom is his former
lover --- has few other allies, and betrayals and death are his
constant companions. What he discovers is that the plot involves
far more than he originally imagined, with ramifications that will
extend beyond a disputed border and across the world.

A great deal of the fun involved in reading the novellas that
comprise WATCHLIST is the experience of having your favorite
thriller writers --- Lee Child, Gayle Lynds, P. J. Parrish, David
Hewson, John Miller and Brett Battles, among many others ---
treading far outside of their comfort zones and riffing in
unfamiliar territory. It’s kind of like walking into a small
club and finding several of your favorite musicians taking
successive solos around a common theme. The plots are fast-paced
and the paragraphs fly by so fast that a seat belt should be
included in the binding. It’s an experience you do not want
to miss, not only for the names with which you might be familiar,
but also for the ones that you don’t know.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011

Watchlist: A Serial Thriller
by Jeffery Deaver

  • Publication Date: December 7, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vanguard Press
  • ISBN-10: 1593155905
  • ISBN-13: 9781593155902