Damn you, Vincent Zandri.
I've barked at ol' Vince before for taking noir stereotypes and making them feel fresh (re: my review of Godchild). He's like the Green Day of crime fiction. He'll take a feel that isn't exactly new and turn it on its head. That's what makes him one of the best crime authors writing today. (Note: That's not an endorsement of Green Day.)
As a crime author myself who runs as far away from familiarity as possible (re: Cleansing Eden, 4 Killer Crime Stories in 4 Minutes, etc.), this bugs the crap out of me. You can't just recycle something that's been done before and make it exciting. That's, like, against the rules, right? The rules of Being an Author Club?
I am wrong. Vincent Zandri is right.
So I say, "Damn you, Vincent Zandri," before launching into a review of his new Scream Catcher. Damn you for taking my expectations, shoveling them in front of a steamroller and cackling at the bloody smear you wipe across your pages. Scream Catcher is one hell of a crime thriller novel.
The premise involves Jude, an ex-cop turned author (a move that, as in Concrete Pearl, quietly serves as a pantomime for the real Zandri), who witnesses a bizarre murder late one night. The killer appears to be hunting his victim in a gravel pit. Right before the kill shot, the killer holds up an iPhone and demands the victim scream.
These screams are recorded for use in the killer's popular video games. They add a dimension of realism that satisfies the killer's perverse personality.
For the same reasons, he puts his victims through real-world simulations of his video games in development. Jude tries his damnedest to avoid winding up in one, but sure enough the killer comes knocking.
Jude has to stay alive inside the killer's "game" long enough to save his family, disarm a bomb and overcome a fear of "freezing up" - something that cost him his job as a cop.
The whole "let's put a 'player' through a real-world video game" trope has been milked raw before, mostly in movies starring Gerard Butler. But as I said, this is Vincent Zandri. He knows how to make people grind their nails bloody. And he does. In spades.
Jude's marathon of pain through the killer's "game" has to be one of the most suspenseful chunk of pages I've ever read. If you need a thriller pick-me-up, you're not going to be disappointed with those passages.
I give Scream Catcher my full endorsement. This is a guaranteed good read.
Click here to get Scream Catcher on Amazon for the Kindle.
Click here to get Scream Catcher on Barnes & Noble for the Nook.