The subtitle of Hooked: A Thriller About Love And Other Addictions leads us to expect a thriller that meets the classic definition, or at least the one found on Wikipedia: "Thrillers are characterized by fast pacing, frequent action, and resourceful heroes…"
Hooked starts with bang and the action kicks in, as the hero rushes out of a café to follow a beautiful woman. Right as she gets into a red BMW, the café explodes. It is a great opening, one that inspires a reader to curl up in a comfy chair.
Along the way, it lacks the twists and turns, red herrings, and multiple groups of nefarious villains that can make a good mystery story into a great book. There isn't an Agatha Christie-style "moment of revelation" where the hero explains it all for us, the audience. We've been following the hero around, picking up the same clues he does, and slowly reaching the same conclusions.
The story does have a "resourceful hero," Nat Idle. Nat is a journalist who wrote a story which put a cop in jail. As a result, the lead investigator on the cafe explosion is less than friendly. It is not a good time to have the cops on your bad side; they want to know why Nat ran out of the café immediately before the explosion.
Nat starts investigating out of curiosity, self-defense, and the off-hand hope that the mysterious woman is somehow connected to the love of his life, Annie. He knows finding Annie is a long shot; she's been dead for a few years. He starts asking questions, showing up at the wrong place at the wrong time, and the explosions continue.
Sharing Nat's journey to discover who is behind the series of explosions is an enjoyable ride, with humor and insight into the high-tech industry. There are many touchingly funny moments throughout the book. In my favorite, Nat is getting comfortable, close, romantic… and there is that familiar feeling in his pants. The vibration of a cell phone.
The story revolves around how our connections to cell phones and Internet are hard to break. Nat is a medical journalist, which gives our resourceful hero credibility when he delves into neurology to find the villains behind the bombings. Our brains are stimulated by the connection and the constant influx of information and incoming mail.
Matt Richtel is a technology journalist, writing for the New York Times. One of his stories made a big impression on me: "In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop." The story describes the lives and, tragically, the deaths of writers who work around the clock to monitor the subjects in their domain, each striving to be the first to post any breaking developments to the Internet. It is the perfect complement to the theme of Hooked. After reading it, I was more conscious of that little rush I get from each incoming email notification, and my tendency to check my custom news page throughout the day.
Hooked is a great read for a long plane ride, especially if a long vacation from the phone and computer are awaiting you when you finish. I am looking forward to my next journey with Nat Idle, a book Richtel has tentatively titled Idle's Brain.
You can read more about the author, his joy in creating this story and plans for the next book in Scott Bukti's interview with Matt Richtel.