Tom Savage is master of the high octane, full-speed-ahead espionage thriller. Last year he gave us Penny for the Hangman, which kept me up late at night, and this year if anything he has improved upon it with Mrs. John Doe. Thank you to Net Galley and Random House-Alibi for the DRC. Now that’s I’ve finished it, I can breathe again!
Nora Baron is a widow. Her husband Jeff has been killed in the line of duty as a CIA operative in Britain. She goes to claim his corpse, get him cremated and take him home…and then all hell breaks loose, because nothing, nothing, nothing is as it seems.
Savage’s thriller style is both fast-paced and psychological. We never know who Nora can trust, and so we are constantly on edge. Sometimes it irritates me when a writer messes with my head, but the way Savage does it just makes me want to sit up and howl for more. From one friend-who-can-help (or is it a foe-who-will-turn-on-her?) to another, we are constantly cheering for Nora, advising her (good gravy, NO, don’t get in that car!), and every time we feel we have a pretty good grip on what ‘s going on and what’s going to happen next, it turns out we couldn’t be more mistaken. Savage accomplishes all this without resorting to trickily withheld information or any of the other shabby cheats and foils that lesser authors deliver. The story arc that would, in another thriller, start to pick up past the halfway mark and really accelerate at 85%, instead picks up almost from the get-go and keeps us furiously turning the pages until after the climax, when we finally wind down just enough to know what happens to our protagonist after the ride is over.
Those that read my reviews know that I can’t so much as tie my own shoelaces without looking for political content, so I also want to mention that the anti-Pakistani slurs and assumptions that all characters from the Middle East are terrorists get taken care of tidily.
Ultimately, having the woman depicted in such a positive, capable fashion is a touch that boomer-feminists like me, as well as the younger, newer wave of feminists, will appreciate. And while once in awhile something implausible slides into the text, we have to buy the premise anyway, because Savage isn’t going to pause long enough to talk about it, and we have to know what happens next. So as usual, an excellent writer can make us believe almost anything, whereas an indifferent one can’t make us bond with the everyday and the ordinary.
When this thriller comes out October 6, get a copy and hold on tight. It’s going to be one frenzied, wild ride!