I must stand up and admit that 1) about a third of the way through Jeffery Deaver’s latest novel, I thought that he had come a cropper, and 2) by the time I was two-thirds of the way through, I realized how horribly wrong I was. THE OCTOBER LIST is a stand-alone thriller told in reverse. Deaver is not the first to utilize this storytelling method, which he has acknowledged. Such novels are an interesting deviation and often receive their own special evaluation, sometimes along the same lines as “it is not that the dog sings well; it is that the dog sings at all.”
That is not the case here; I initially felt the same disappointment I would have if, say, my birthday had been forgotten, only to be greeted in the evening by the best party ever. That’s THE OCTOBER LIST: what a wild, dangerous surprise party it is.
"[I]t would behoove you to read the book at least three times: once for the pure surprise and enjoyment of your first encounter with it, once to see how Deaver did it ('it' being how he resolved every single dangling element in the book), and once to…well, just because you'll want to."
As a result of the tale being told in reverse, we are introduced to a host of characters at the beginning. They include Gabriela, a woman whose young daughter, Sarah, has been kidnapped by a very violent and dangerous man named Joseph, who in turn is after a mysterious list, the October List, that has been compiled by Gabriela’s employer, a wealthy investor who is now on the lam. Gabriela is not without resources, first and foremost being a man named Daniel, who is movie-star attractive and has friends who gear up for protecting people like Gabriela from scoundrels like Joseph. We come to learn gradually that Daniel and Gabriela have been on the run, attempting to locate this list that Gabriela had no idea existed. Bad things apparently have happened during the course of this search, resulting in Gabriela being injured and doing some harm herself. It is a bit of a wild ride, made more so by a couple of police detectives who are more of a hindrance than a help.
In the middle of all this, it appears that Gabriela and Daniel are developing some mutual attraction, which seems (the operative word here is seems) to drag the book down a bit in spots, making it somewhat pedestrian. You might even be tempted a third of the way through to stop reading. Please don’t! What Deaver does here is invite readers into a nice but unremarkable house. But when you’re through the entryway and making perfunctory remarks about how nice everything looks, the floorboards start disappearing and you're flying posterior over tea kettle.
As with most of Deaver’s novels, THE OCTOBER LIST is shot through with a multitude of swerves. It's not one of his best books to date, but it certainly is one of his most memorable and entertaining ones. Every chapter begins with a photograph, each of which is very nicely done. Take a look at the pictures, for sure, but it would behoove you to read the book at least three times: once for the pure surprise and enjoyment of your first encounter with it, once to see how Deaver did it ("it" being how he resolved every single dangling element in the book), and once to…well, just because you'll want to.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 4, 2013