Reviews > Published on June 3rd, 2014

Bookshots: 'FaceOff' Edited by David Baldacci

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review



Who wrote it:

Watching hardened cops and private detectives ricochet off one another as they adapt to unfamiliar techniques, personalities, and settings breathes fresh life into some decades old characters...

FaceOff is an anthology edited by veteran thriller writer, David Baldacci. It includes stories by an array of 23 established authors, such as John Sanford and Lisa Gardner.

Plot in a Box:

The International Thriller Writers (ITW) have put together a collection of crossover stories with some of the genre’s most popular characters, where they butt heads, solve crimes, and share a drink at the bar.

Invent a new title for this book:

Duke It Out

Read this if you liked:

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane or The Hit by David Baldacci 

Meet the book's lead(s):

A few iconic characters make an appearance: Jack Reacher, Aloysius Pendergast, and Lucas Davenport, among many others.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Several characters in FaceOff have already appeared in movie adaptations, such as Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Jack Reacher (written by Lee Child).

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Since one story is set where I actually do live (Boston) I’d have to say yes. By the way, Michael Connelly, the Red Sox hats are definitely a rule here, not a guideline—Lehane’s character was lying.

What was your favorite sentence?

This wasn't a house cat who'd checked out, who kept his head down, took his paycheck, and counted the days till his twenty. This was a cop who kicked in doors if he had to, whether he knew what was on the other side or not...

The Verdict:

Let’s be honest: there’s something inherently fun about crossovers. They take familiar characters and set them in jarringly different situations, which can provide authors with a whole arsenal of new ways to test the mettle of their protagonists, taking them out of their comfort zones and into uncharted territory.

For readers, that’s a very good thing, and it makes FaceOff a must for fans of the ITW authors’ other works. Watching hardened cops and private detectives ricochet off one another as they adapt to unfamiliar techniques, personalities, and settings breathes fresh life into some decades old characters (Detective Pendergast, for instance, has been appearing in best-sellers since 1990). Noticeably, the characters with the most opposite personalities, or who come from the most diverse backgrounds tend to be paired together. This works well throughout FaceOff, as it sets up immediate conflict in addition to the problem of solving whichever criminal case is at hand.

Plots include the chase for a pervert who really likes milk, the deathbed confession of a retired Mod punk from sixties Brighton, and a flashback to the nineties with a cameo by R.L. Stine’s evil ventriloquist doll, Slappy the Dummy. So as you can probably guess, there’s a bit of variety here. The stories, although short, generally manage to ratchet up enough tension to make each tale seem like a full arc by its end. This is only achievable because, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, none of these characters are new. Their authors obviously know them quite intimately—well enough that they can even re-imagine them in the worlds of other writers.

Despite the ongoing, serial nature of several of the characters employed in FaceOff, readers don’t have to be extremely familiar with any author’s particular mythology, since each story stands on its own merit. Because the anthology makes a nice sampler of current thriller writers, anyone who picks up the book may be in danger of finding a new addiction in one of the prolific series featured.  

If you’re looking for a brisk beach read this summer, FaceOff should fit the bill nicely. The anthology is set to be released in June, a month ahead of the fourth annual ThrillerFest conference in New York.

About the author

Leah Dearborn is a Boston-based writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in international relations from UMass Boston. She started writing for LitReactor in 2013 while paying her way through journalism school and hopping between bookstore jobs (R.I.P. Borders). In the years since, she’s written articles about everything from colonial poisoning plots to city council plans for using owls as pest control. If it’s a little strange, she’s probably interested.

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