FaceOff by David Baldacci, ed.

FaceOffFaceOff

by David Baldacci

Hardcover, 384 pg.
Simon & Schuster, 2014
Read: July 15-25, 2014

When I was a kid, one of the go-to moves to increase circulation/awareness of a comic book title was to have it cross-over with another title. Or if you had two already well-selling titles, and you wanted a little spike in the selling, that’d work, too (particularly if one title was from DC and the other from Marvel). I, as I was supposed to, grabbed a lot of these. They tended to follow a pattern — Group/Individual A runs into Group/Individual B, for no explicable reason they start to fight. Eventually, they figure out they’re all heroes fighting for good and turn their collective energies to defeating the bad guys. This was fine, because it let you see who would win in a fight — Thor or Superman (answer: neither), Halo or Starfire — that kind of thing.

That’s what a lot of these stories reminded me of — classic cross-over tales, and many fit that pattern. Which was okay, but thankfully not all of them did. At the end of the day, there were 2 stories I wanted to read, a couple of others that I was somewhat interested in, and the rest — well, might as well take a look at them, as long as I had the book. I picked up a couple of new names to try — and a couple to avoid. All in all, this was a mixed bag.

    Some specific thoughts:

  • Red Eye by Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane (Harry Bosch vs. Patrick Kenzie)
    This first story was the primary motivation for me to get my hands on this book. Two of my all-time, personal Hall of Fame characters together. The story was a bit . . . meh. The criminal was definitely in the wheelhouse for both Kenzie and Bosch, but it was a little too easy to find him — and once the two detectives decided to work together, the solution was a bit too quick and easy (yet just the kind of ending that I could see either character coming up with on their own — so together it absolutely made sense). I’m pretty sure (without taking the time to verify) that this was the shortest story in the collection, and it needed at least another 10 pages to be satisfactory. Still, I’m putting this down as a winner.
  • In the Nick of Time by Ian Rankin and Peter James (John Rebus vs. Roy Grace)
    This was so dull, so predictable, no actual detective work was done here — all of it happened “off screen” so to speak. Maybe, maybe if you liked Rebus or Grace on their own, this would appeal to you. But even then, yawn.
  • Gaslighted by R.L. Stine, Douglas Preston, and Lincoln Child (Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy vs. Aloysius Pendergast)
    I think you’d need a lot more familiarity with these characters (particularly Pendergast) to enjoy this one — really to understand it all.
  • The Laughing Buddha by M.J. Rose and Lisa Gardner (Malachai Samuels vs. D.D. Warren)
    Okay, after two novels and now one short story, I still don’t see what D. D. Warren brings to anything. Did she do much at all here? It was an interesting enough story, and if I hadn’t spent so much time waiting for Warren to do something, I might have enjoyed it more. Then again, I’m not sure how much I can buy the whole setup for Samuels’ character.
  • Surfing the Panther by Steve Martini and Linda Fairstein (Paul Madriani vs. Alexandra Cooper)
    Neither one of these lawyer characters appeared all that terribly interesting — but the crime in question, the way it was presented, and the solution to it? That made this one worthwhile. Very clever stuff (even if, again, most of the action took place off-screen).
  • Rhymes With Prey by Jeffery Deaver and John Sandford (Lincoln Rhyme vs. Lucas Davenport)
    Early on in the story, I jotted in my notes, “What this story really needs are more unfamiliar characters whose names start with an ‘L’.” But once I got past that, it was probably the most complex and compelling story in the book and the most likely to provoke further reading — I’m interested in following up with both series. Not sure it’ll happen soon, but it’ll happen.
  • Infernal Night by Heather Graham and F. Paul Wilson (Michael Quinn vs. Repairman Jack)
    Doubt I’ll misquote the “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” line again, because like Repairman Jack, I “just like to get things right.” After reading the introduction, I wasn’t at all interested in these characters. But the story intrigued me, and I’m pretty sure I’ll check out both series. I have one friend I really see getting into Repairman Jack. The story was creepy and cool. And slightly predictable. But still, creepy and cool.
  • Pit Stop by Raymond Khoury and Linwood Barclay (Sean Reilly vs. Glen Garber)
    Perfect start to this kind of story – – killer first sentence, and the closing sentence of the first section is almost as compelling. The ending wasn’t as good as wanted it to be, but it seemed like they needed an easy ending or another fifty pages — so easy ending, it had to be. The stuff in the middle was pretty fun. Garber’s daughter is the coolest little girl this side of space/time constraints. Garner’s daughter is the coolest little girl this side of Flavia de Luce.
  • Silent Hunt by John Lescroart and T. Jefferson Parker (Wyatt Hunt vs. Joe Trona)
    A couple of law enforcement guys on fishing vacations. Didn’t do much for me — my guess is that fans of Hunt and Trona would probably enjoy this, like I did with Bosch and Kenzie. More for the experience of seeing the two together rather than for the strength of this pretty tired tale.
  • The Devil’s Bones by Steve Berry and James Rollins (Cotton Malone vs. Gray Pierce)
    The way their target talked was the only false note in this action-packed story. And man, oh man, was it false. But the action, the interplay between Malone and Pierece, the story, everything else worked really, really well. One of the best things in this book.
  • Good and Valuable Consideration by Lee Child and Joseph Finder (Jack Reacher vs. Nick Heller)
    I’ve never read Finder before, but probably will now (of any in this book, he’ll probably be first). I loved this one, it may not be the best-written story in the collection, but it’s my favorite. Funny (very), yet true to Reacher’s almost-never funny character (and I assume also true to Heller’s). The banter and cooperation between the two was great. The way they came to a consensus without speaking about how to help the poor guy they met in the bar brought a smile to my face. It was a decent story, too, but one of those that didn’t have to be, because the character work was so fun. It was the perfect thing to close this with.

So again, your results may vary — but overall, a worthwhile read — some real highs, and some moderate lows. Good fodder for a TBR list.

—–

3 Stars

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