Friday, February 12, 2010

A Thriller Of Olympic Proportions

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics opening ceremonies are today. What better day, then, for me to talk a little bit about Michael Slade's latest novel - Red Snow.

Slade's latest novel takes place in the days preceding the 2010 Winter Olympics. Mephisto, a recurring bad guy in the series of books that follow along the members of the Special X team of psychopath hunters of the RCMP, is back, and he attempts to turn Canada's hosting of the winter games into a world-wide bloodbath.

With people from all corners of the globe converging in a central, somewhat isolated spot in the mountains of Whistler, British Columbia, Mephisto's plan includes destroying highway access and trapping folks in a nightmarish trap (involving the Sea to Sky highway, the only route to Whistler), allowing him the opportunity to release a supervirus that people will take home to their respective countries and quickly spread around the world.

The plan and the various brutal murders and crimes committed in the days leading up to Mephisto's big plans are horrendously ingenious. Slade has crafted some not only some wonderfully challenging "whodunits" but also some fascinating "howdunits."

But on top of the quickly rolling plot, the intriguing mysteries embedded in the tale and the sense of urgency as the story races to a close, Slade injects something that into his writing that is rare in much best-selling thriller fiction. Very much in the same style of Richard Laymon, Slade seems to lack a strong sense of character preservation in his stories. What I mean by this is that very early in the book he takes one of the main characters and murders him. Then, as the book rolls along, along one of the central character team is taken down. Then another.

By the time you get to the climax your heart is racing uncontrollably because it's not just a question of whether or not the good guys will win, but ultimately, who is going to be left standing at the end. By removing the "the good guys can't die" element from the reader's mind, Slade cranks the stakes up that much higher and provides truly satisfying suspense. Nobody is safe and that makes for a perfectly page-turning thriller.

So, with the Olympics here, enjoy the wonderful thrill of competition and athletic challenge. And, after the games are over, enjoy a different kind of excitement by curling up in front of a fire and enjoying Slade's Red Snow.

1 comment:

Loreth Anne White said...

Nice review -- want to read this one, especially since I live in Whistler. Went to look it up on Amazon and oddly came across another RED SNOW, also a thriller, also set in Whistler, but this one by Michael Mort. Heh, now I will have two Whistler-set thrillers on my to-be-read pile :)