What would you do if the situation arose whereby if you were ever more than ten feet away from another person, you'd die? And how good would you become at measuring ten feet?
Or if you were in an airport bar and your drink was spiked by a beautiful blonde who claimed to have poisoned your drink and that you'll be dead within eight hours unless she gave you the antidote? You might do nothing, but when you start chucking your guts up as predicted by the woman, what then?
Or, if your partner and unborn child were murdered by the mob and you were a trained killer, how would you respond? And if you were working for some double secret service and had to carry a dead man's head back to base even though it's still attached to the body when you find it?
Or you're a ruthless, mercenary scientist who is ready to sell the ultimate weapon, only there's one person in the way and there's only one way to stop her?
Blimey, that's a lot of questions. Even so, there are far more in The Blonde (US), only I don't want to raise them and spoil your fun.
The opening of this novel is about as good as it gets. Attention is held from the off. "I poisoned your drink," is the first line and that's all it took to have me hooked. There's something of The Temple Of Doom about the setup and it really works a treat. You know you're in safe hands from that moment on. Then again, it's always possible that such a winning gambit is a fluke. That possibility is quickly burned out when the multiple points of view weave together to increase the intrigue rather than dilute it.
Jack Eisley is the man who has been poisoned. He's in town to meet with the hot-shot lawyer who's batting for his wife. On the whole, he'd rather be anywhere than Philadelphia. When he realises that the blonde's threat is far from idle, he needs to get the antidote fast and dashes back the airport to find the woman who did the dirty on him.
Secret agent and war vet Mike Kowalski is also heading for the airport. His instructions are to find the same blonde Jack's looking for.
When they find the locate her, she's sucking the tongue off some average guy who can't resist such an adorable lady.
What happens from then on is for you to find out. I won't say much other than to point out that it's a fast-paced adventure with genuine tension and terrific action where each character is stretched to the absolute limit and gets to visit some freaky places along the way.
The core premise is absolutely ace, but it needs a writer full of confidence and skill to pull it off. Swierczynski clearly has both of those in abundance and he succeeds where others might fear to tread.
After the adrenaline rush of the novel, it's difficult to imagine how it could possibly end. I mentioned that the beginning was terrific and I can also tell you that it has a conclusion to match - utterly satisfying and bordering on genius.
It so happens that Duane Swierczynski's family is having a tough time right now. It's not my place to explain, but you can find out lots about it here and here (Evie's Braids) if you'd like. There's the option to chip in your support in a number of ways (blood, marrow and cash donation) and I know that the crime writing community has come together and shown its love and respect for one of its own. I know that if you take the time it will be appreciated. And buying books always helps - if you pick up a copy of a DS novel, you're in for a total treat.
And if you have time after all that and feel like checking out a still-warm interview I did over at All Due Respect books, you'll find it here. This time it was me who was asked some challenging questions and I hope I managed to get close to finding the answers. Thanks to Christopher Rhatigan for so many things.