Award-winning writer Andrew Klavan has penned a humdinger of a suspense thriller for the young adult market. And he’s not holding back the trademark action, pacing, and psychological tension that mark his other books. Not only that, he channels a riff from The Bourne Identity in the creation of his hero, Charlie West.
The book seized my attention immediately by opening with Charlie tied to a chair by unknown assailants next to a table filled with blood-curdling torture tools. It’s really like a 007 opener in one of the movies. Then it shifts to what Charlie last remembers, going back to when he was a tongue-tied 17-year old karate black belt who was still afraid of asking out a pretty girl.
This back-and-forth between present and past put me off a little at first because it felt like stalling, then when I realized that the past actually held clues to what Charlie was doing there, I read both with equal interest. Honestly, I might not have been nailed to the book if I’d just gotten introduced to Charlie while he was in school struggling through young love and working out at the dojo. And I couldn’t have handled the sustained tension of the escape without knowing more about the character.
Klavan pulls both off, then makes a hat trick of it by hiding how long it’s been between those two points in Charlie’s life and what has happened in between. The Last Thing I Remember is a great mixture of thriller and psychological puzzle. Even as Charlie makes his first escape, the author drops in hints and pieces of the puzzle and lets the reader know they’re not getting to see everything he’s got up his sleeve.
I sat with this book from beginning to end, pulled in two directions. I wanted to know more about what Charlie was going to do, and I wanted to know more about what had been done to him. And I couldn’t decide which I wanted worst.
When it comes to writing nerve-wracking suspense or bone-crunching fight scenes, Klavan is a champ. He doesn’t waste or mince words, driving straight to the tension or the action. The pages on this book turn way too easily and will keep unwary readers glued to the story until they finish it. The subject matter is a little heavy-handed in regards to nationalism versus story. I appreciate the author beating the drum upon occasion, and the story plot is definitely tied to these views, but every now and again it did detract me from the story.
The Last Thing I Remember is a great book for reluctant readers, especially male readers, because it focuses a lot on the young male mindset. Charlie may be a little too “good” and “straight-laced” for some kids, but others are going to definitely see him as hero material.
Since this book is obviously marked as Book 1 of The Homelanders Series, expect the deliberate cliffhanger ending. The next installment comes out the first of 2010 and readers are going to be anxiously awaiting it. However, there is a teaser chapter at the end of this book that will even further whet appetites, so at least readers will know a little of what is coming.