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Friday, 12 June 2015

‘Face Off’ Edited by David Baldacci

Published by Sphere,
29 January 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-5494-6

It must have seemed like a really good idea at the time: get two popular fictional detectives together and have them chasing down the baddies.  And so it proved!   Put Rebus and Roy Grace together, or Jack Reacher with Nick Heller, pooling their brains, their experience and their abilities, the reasoning must have been, and you can scarcely go wrong.  Gimmicky, yes.  But in this collection of original short stories, it works.

I particularly enjoyed the long central story (practically a novel in itself!) where Lincoln Rhyme meets Lucas Davenport.  It also includes Amelia Sachs on Rhyme's side and Lily Rothenburg on Davenport: psychological profiling working hand in hand with forensic science to solve a particularly gruesome series of killings. 
Raymond Khoury's FBI agent Sean Reilly working on the same case with Linwood Barclay's Glenn Garber, the building contractor, is another of the star stories in this collection.  Not only because it's well-written and credible, but also because of Garber's hungry but intrepid 10-year-old daughter, Kelly.  The plot involves a sinister stainless-steel canister which looks like an ordinary Thermos, but whose contents could destroy the world – or at least, large swathes of it.  Needless to say, without Kelly, half of us would have been blown to smithereens.

In another pick of the crop, Steve Martini and Linda Fairstein team their characters together in a fascinating case involving artefacts stolen from the Museum of Cairo during the Arab Spring riots. t

All the stories are high-class –  that goes without saying, with writers of this calibre – but some work better than others. Getting the protagonists together from opposite ends of the United States was always going to be a little awkward and for that reason there are occasional moments of clumsiness.  I also feel that Baldacci should not have subtitled each story as A vs B, since they are actually working together, not against each other. 
A thoroughly enjoyable read, and I was delighted to find some authors whose work I hadn't come across before.
Reviewer: Susan Moody

David Baldacci.  A lifelong Virginian, David was born in Richmond in 1960. He received his Bachelor’s degree in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, after which he practiced law for nine years in Washington, D.C. He has published 22 books.
While David is involved in several philanthropic organizations, his greatest efforts are dedicated to his family’s ‘Wish You Well foundation.’ Established by David and his wife, Michelle, the Wish You Well Foundation supports family literacy in the United States by fostering and promoting the development and expansion of new and existing literacy and educational programs. In 2010 the Foundation partnered with Feeding America to launch a program to address the connection between literacy, poverty and hunger. Through Feeding Body & Mind, nearly 1 million new and used books have been collected and distributed through area food banks. David explains, “With this program, people go home with food, which they need to live, as well as with books, which they need to change their lives.”

Susan Moody was born and brought up in Oxford.  She has published over 30 crime and suspense novels, including the Penny Wanawake series and the Cassandra Swann bridge series.  She is a past Chairman of the British Crime Writers' Association, a member of the Detection Club, a past Writer-in-Residence at the University of Tasmania and a past President of the International Association of Crime Writers.  She divides her time between south-west France and south-east Kent.   Nominated for the CWA short story award.  Nominated for the RNA's award. 

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