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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stirred by J.A. Konrath & Blake Crouch (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Blake Crouch Website
Official J. A.  Konrath Website
Order “StirredHERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Serial Killers Uncut” by Jack Kilborn & Blake Crouch
Read FBC’s Review of “Run” by Blake Crouch
Read FBC’s Review of “Afraid” by Jack Kilborn
Read FBC’s Interview with Blake Crouch

ABOUT BLAKE CROUCH: Blake Crouch was born in Statesville, North Carolina and graduated in 2000 with degrees in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina. He has written five previous novels and a host of short stories. Two of his stories have been previously optioned for film adaptation. Blake currently lives in Durango, Colorado with his wife.

ABOUT J. A. KONRATH: J.A. Konrath is the award-winning author of the Jack Daniels series. He is also the editor of the hitman anthology “These Guns For Hire”, and his short stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines and collections. As Jack Kilborn, the author has written the horror novels Afraid, Trapped, Endurance and Draculas. He currently lives in a suburb of Chicago with his family.

OFFICIAL PLOT SYNOPSIS: Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels has seen humanity at its most depraved and terrifying. She's lost loved ones. Come close to death countless times. But she always manages to triumph over evil. Luther Kite is humanity at its most depraved and terrifying. He's committed unthinkable acts. Taken human life for the sheer pleasure of it. He is a monster among monsters, and no one has ever caught him. Each is the best at what they do. Peerless. Unmatched.

Until now...

In Luther's experience, people are weak. Even the strong and fearless break too easily. He wants a challenge, and sets his depraved sights on Jack. But with a baby on the way, Jack is at her most vulnerable. She's always been a fighter, but she's never had so much to fight for. So he's built something especially for Jack. His own, private ninth circle of hell - a nightmare world in a forgotten place, from which no one has ever escaped.

It's J.A. Konrath's greatest heroine versus Blake Crouch's greatest villain in Stirred, the stunning conclusion to both Konrath's Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thriller series and Crouch's Andrew Z. Thomas series.

Only one can survive. And it won't be whom you think.

FORMAT/INFO: Stirred is 400 pages long divided over three Parts, an Intermezzo and an epilogue. Also included are Authors’ introduction, a character cast, storyline endnotes, bonus features, afterword and various excerpts from the authors’ books. Narration is mostly in the third-person via Luther Kite, Donaldson, Lucy, Phineas Troutt, Herb Benedict and many other characters. A first-person POV is also provided for Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels. Stirred can be read as a standalone, but it will have been useful to have read Serial Killers Uncut and or Shaken before hand to gain a deeper understanding of the story/saga so far.

November 22, 2011 marked the e-book publication of "Stirred" via  Thomas & Mercer, the print division of Amazon Publishing. The paperback will be released on February 21, 2012. Cover art is provided by Jeroen ten Berge.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Stirred is a book for which both authors have been building up anticipation for their reading audience. The first collaboration between both these authors was “Serial” which was a download bonanza, and was the stepping stone in regards to the unification of their individual written worlds. Following in that direction, the authors soon expanded their collaborative efforts with Serial Uncut, Killers, Birds of Prey, etc…  All of these books along with newer material were combined into a single volume called Serial Killers Uncut, which was a huge success as well as loved by the fans. I especially liked the book and was waiting to see how it would end in Stirred as I also read Shaken the penultimate book in the Jack Daniels series. Before starting on with the review for Stirred, I’ll do a brief overview of Shaken before proceeding to the review.

  Shaken was released earlier this year and is the seventh book in the Jack Daniels series, what was especially special about this book was that it had qualities of a prequel and sequel bundled smoothly within. The story has three distinct threads featuring Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels in three different time periods of her life, the first time period is set twenty years ago, the second timeline being focused on events three years ago and lastly the third plot is set in present day. The focus of the story was on Mr. K, a killer of note and one who has refined his methods over decades. The three timelines showcase Jack struggles with him in these various time-periods.  The best part about the book is its ending and how it ties into this book, via the presence of Luther Kite who has set his sights on Jack as he sees her as his ultimate competitor via bonds of alpha predators.

 There’s also a tie-in to this book via several chapters from Serial Killers Uncut as Luther, Donaldson & Lucy return and are worse for the wear. The story begins with Jack who is now nearly eight and half months pregnant, this however hasn’t necessarily dulled her senses and she is now even more alert. Due to reasons revealed in the climax of Shaken, Jack’s friends and everyone around her is hyper alert for the presence of Luther Kite and his plans. The biggest problem is while Jack is about to deliver, she just plain refuses to accept her physiological condition thereby further endangering her own life as well as that of her baby. Luther on the other hand has been rather inspired by Dante and his most famous work and goes about his enigmatic ways to recreate the nine circles of hell in an abandoned are of the country as well targeting several other individuals to raise the stakes of his grand plan. Thus begins the final chapter in the worlds of Jack Daniels and Luther Kite, wherein only one predator can survive and for that to happen the other must be terminated as that is the only way to survive.

 This book while building upon the two previous titles does its absolute best to out thrill both the previous titles. This book is supposedly the end to not just one but two series of two different authors. Not only does it raise the stakes twice over but it also raises the question how effectively two authors can jointly write a saga and manage to make their numero uno character come out on top. As a fan of the Jack Daniels series, it was hard to imagine what fate would befall her however in the back of my mind, I knew J.A. Konrath planned to write a series about Jack’s grandson thereby ruining the surprise a bit but knowing the author’s deviousness and previous book plots, it could have very well turned out that Jack could still be dead and her baby might survive.

 This book’s strongest point is in its visceral twists and turns, Luther Kite strongly moulds the story alongside his devious plan that causes Jack and her friends but the readers as well to rack their brains as to what might be his ultimate aim.  This aspect along with the plot’s express pace is what makes this book an excellent thriller as well as one of the best serial killer titles. The authors have to be lauded for their ingenuity in coming up with all the twists for this tale and also for planning the ultimate twist in the climax of this story. I had raised a question in regards to a certain plot occurrence in Serial Killers Uncut, which was severely contradicted by events taking place in Shaken. I had raised this query in my review and also asked Blake Crouch for clarification, to which he had replied that everything will be revealed in Stirred and to my surprise it was. The contradiction plays perfectly into the massive twist planned by the authors and kudos to them for planning and executing it.  All in all this I couldn't put down the book once I started it and as far as thrillers go, this is what every thriller aims for. As for as any negative points to this book, I couldn't find many. Some readers might take umbrage with some of the twists as well as some of the things which occur might be near impossible for a nearly full term woman to do all of which Jack Daniels does.  But if we start questioning too much into these events, the thriller aspect might just fall apart completely.  I think that while such issues can be detrimental to the story they can’t be completely ignored. Take the book for what it is, a thriller book featuring serial killers of the most depraved kind and a cop who hunts them at the expense of her own life as well as that of her near & dear ones. It’s not a medical manual about what severely pregnant females can and cannot do.

CONCLUSION: A fitting finale to two series and with more action and intrigue packed in it to satisfy the most veteran readers. Stirred brings a strong, emotionally satisfying end to a saga of various characters with almost no room for ennui of any kind. Once again J.A. Konrath & Blake Crouch effectively show why they can be counted upon in the future to write plots mixing cerebral & visceral thrills and to thoroughly entertain their fans.


Russell Brooks said...

I'm a huge JA Konrath fan and have read all of the Jack Daniels series. Stirred is on my 2012 TBR list. I've been slow to get this one because I don't like the idea of this being the last Jack Daniels book. I've enjoyed her adventures with Herb Bennedict, Phineus Trout, and how can we NOT love Harry McGlade (best comic relief ever). Sigh.

Mihir said...

Hi Russell

Since you are a JAK fan, I believe you will like this book a lot & don't worry too much about the series ending. The authors have masterfully written this book to satisfy most fans of the series.

Plus Harry McG is in top form in this one as well.


Russell Brooks said...

I'll be reading it for sure. When I read Shaken, I was blown away. Not since I read THE FIRM have I read a book under 24 hours. I was that hooked. I'm glad McGlade is in this one. That's one of the main reasons I keep coming back to this series just to see what this clown is up to.

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