Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Black Fall by Andrew Mayne

First Sentence:  When she saw the telephone pole with the yellow plastic base again, Olivia Fletcher slammed on the brakes of her mail truck, bringing it to a skidding halt.
FBI Agent Jessica Blackwood’s boredom on stakeout is irrevocably broken by a woman appearing at the door threatening to kill the baby she’s holding. The same day a major earthquake hits the East Coast, and a video is televised of well-known Peter Devon, dead for eight years, predicting the location and date of the earthquake, promising more predictions to come.  But for Jessica, the critical question becomes who is pulling the strings of the building chaos.
There’s nothing like a really good opening.  An entire town disappearing is a really good opening.
Jessica Blackwood is a fascinating character; as is the author himself—do read his bio.  You know a book about a woman whose father and grandfather were magicians, as she also was before working in law enforcement, is going to be different.  However, it only takes a few pages before you also realize how intense is the action.
Mayne has a wonderfully readable voice; he’s a natural storyteller. He has done an excellent job of having created a completely believable female character.  He moves the story along at a rapid pace, but doesn’t rely on any one device.  Yes, there’s suspense, but the story is also filled with Jessica’s memories, historical information, her observations, and even her insecurities—“I bought this outfit three years ago, and I’m sure I didn’t see a single person with the same lapel style in the entire FBI building in the last twelve months.  It’s stupid stuff like this that drives me nuts.  I’m hung up on it because I think other women may be hung up on it.  It’s a vicious cycle.” It's not easy for authors to write cross gender, but Mayne does it exceptionally well.
More than a mystery, the story is filled with fascinating ideas in information—“Almost five hundred years ago, John Wilkins, a philosopher and bishop, pushed heavily for the written language to adopt an upside-down exclamation point at the end of a sentence to indicate irony.  Think of how many online feuds that could have prevented.”  While some authors cause one to seek a dictionary, Mayne prompts visits to Wikipedia.
Damian is an intriguing character about whom we’d like to know more.  And, we realize we probably won’t.  It is that mystery that keeps him so intriguing.
Mayne is frighteningly spot on with some of the events happening today.  This makes the book both fascinating and terrifying—“The ammunition is rumor, innuendo, misinformation, and leaks. …the delivery vehicles are ordinary citizens, journalists, media personalities, and politicians.”  As much as I tend to dislike prologues, the connection to it is very well done later in the story.  
Good dialogue, natural-sounding dialogue, can make all the difference to a story even when it’s a monologue to a horse perfectly conveying the character's nervousness about the situation—“Alright, boy.  If you don’t hear from me in ten minutes, go get help.” Silverback stares at me blankly. … “And get me a grande latte…um, and a cowboy…blue eyes, independently wealthy, not too rustic….” I pat Silverback on the flank, which he interprets as a signal to start walking.  I chase after him and grab the reins. “Wait! Hold up.  Not yet.”  Silverback stops and gives me another of his looks:  Seriously, lady?”
 “BlackFall” has excellent suspense, and twists; great characters, and very relevant themes.  It is, so far, the best book in the series.  Yes, at times, it’s over-the-top and there are plot holes, but one doesn’t really care.  Once embroiled in the story and the series, it doesn’t let go.  One simply, impatiently, waits for the next book.

BLACK FALL (Pol Thriller-Jessica Blackwood-US- Contemp) – VG+
      Mayne, Andrew – 4th in series
      Harper Perennial – March 2017

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