Review

Final Breath

by Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O’Brien and I both grew up watching a lot of the
same classic television programs --- “Alfred Hitchcock
Presents,” “The Twilight Zone,”
“Thriller” --- designed from Minute One to scare the
pants off of the viewer. There are moments some 40-plus years later
that I still recall, and I’m sure O’Brien does as well.
If those shows were a staple of network TV today, I can assure you
that he would be writing for them. O’Brien has penned a
number of thrillers that have in common a high body count secondary
to horrific murders committed by seemingly omnipresent killers who
appear capable of striking at will --- in other words, containing
everything we love to see in a mystery, thriller or horror novel.
With deceptive ease, he puts a new twist on a genre staple, so that
the only place you know for sure he is going to take you is to the
edge of your seat, and maybe off of it.

FINAL BREATH, O’Brien’s latest work, combines
complex plotting with strong, unique characterization to produce
another unforgettable story. The novel proceeds primarily along two
tracks, both of which center on Sydney Jordan, an A-List television
reporter who finds she is involuntarily at the nexus of a series of
brutal murders. Jordan is the host of a television feature called
“Movers & Shakers,” which spotlights everyday
people who, when confronted with a dangerous or life-threatening
situation, have stood up, taken a risk and saved a life, much as
Jordan herself did several years previously when she rescued a
young boy from a fire at great personal cost to herself.

Jordan is already reeling emotionally from her relocation with
her son Eli from Chicago to Seattle, due to her sudden separation
from her husband, Joe, a policeman she met when he was a guest on
“Movers & Shakers.” Worst of all, it appears
that someone is targeting individuals who Sydney has featured on
the program for murder, brutally killing them in ways consistent
with the manner in which they saved others. Adding to
Sydney’s already significant troubles is Eli’s
increasingly distant behavior, which she blames on his sudden
separation from his father. She is correct but only up to a
point.

What she doesn’t know is that Eli has been communicating
at night with the spirit of a boy close to his own age who was
murdered in the very room where Eli now sleeps and who will not
rest until the killer is brought to justice. Eli, barely a
teenager, has few resources to pursue an investigation, but
utilizes what little he has in order to bring peace to the spirit
that haunts his dreams, little guessing the danger that will result
from his success --- even as Sydney slowly comes to realize that
the shadowy killer who has been slaughtering her previous guests
has targeted her for his final murder.

O’Brien keeps things moving throughout FINAL BREATH. The
identity of the “Movers & Shakers” killer could be
one of several people, and in all probability he will keep you
guessing as to his or her identity until the very end of this
energized tale. But even if you solve the mystery early on, the
wild night ride that O’Brien will take you on will be worth
every page you turn. Notwithstanding its generous length, you will
want to read FINAL BREATH in one sitting, even if it keeps you up
all night.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011

Final Breath
by Kevin O'Brien

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Pinnacle
  • ISBN-10: 0786017775
  • ISBN-13: 9780786017775