That I should have problems like this all the time, in all areas of my life.
The “problem,” in the case of reviewing THE ACCIDENT, is how to tell you about it, give you reason(s) to buy, and, more importantly, read Chris Pavone’s sophomore effort without giving away the whole game. The book is built on a complex plot with a number of characters in different places on the board --- Copenhagen, Los Angeles, Zurich and New York --- who don’t sit still for any length of time for a number of reasons. Add to the mix that the tale takes place over the course of a very long and breathless day (with some occasional flashbacks from a decade or two), and you have a story that demands to be read in one sitting.
"Even without the explosions, deaths, and yes, sex that occur here, Pavone makes the give and take and subterfuge of the business of books interesting, fascinating and suspenseful."
This is anything but a coincidence, because the erstwhile MacGuffin happens to be a manuscript entitled The Accident, which some very important people do not want published. And right here we best distinguish THE ACCIDENT, Chris Pavone’s riveting second thriller, from The Accident, the manuscript by an anonymous author that may never see the light of day. Let’s refer to the latter as the “manuscript,” and the former by its title (or as “the novel,” “the story” or “the book”) and proceed.
THE ACCIDENT begins with a manuscript landing on the desk of Isabel Reed. Reed is a once “A” list literary agent whose life and career have been slowly eroding as a result of a tragedy that is gradually revealed. She realizes, after reading the entire 488 pages in one overnight sitting, that this is a work that can revitalize her career and maybe her life as well. The author, who credits himself as “Anonymous,” insists that only a limited number of people have access to the manuscript before it is published. That particular horse, however, is out the barn door and halfway down before Reed has finished reading it. Within just a few hours of passing it off to an editor at a once-major publishing house, the manuscript has been copied several times and is on its way to California to be unofficially pitched for a movie deal.
Yet there are very powerful forces at play that are in the process of exercising damage control. They want each copy of the manuscript discovered and destroyed, and everyone who has read it are either taken off the radar or frightened into silence. As the contents of the manuscript are gradually revealed to the readers, and the motivations of those who do and don’t want it to be published, Reed and her unlikely allies barely escape from one danger to the next, until they run out of road --- and possibly out of time.
Pavone labored for two decades as an editor in the publishing industry, and is thus able to give his readers an omniscient look at the nuts and bolts of the traditional publishing industry at its most basic, observing the human wheels who work in the machinery that brings books to market. That exposé is only half of the equation, however. Even without the explosions, deaths, and yes, sex that occur here, Pavone makes the give and take and subterfuge of the business of books interesting, fascinating and suspenseful. Come for the plot, and stay for the execution(s): THE ACCIDENT, like the manuscript it describes, is worth a night of lost sleep.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 14, 2014