Marcus Sakey's thrillers have been nominated for more than fifteen awards, named New York Times' Editor's Picks, and selected among Esquire magazine's Top 5 Books of The Year. His most recent novel is Brilliance.
I’ve learned: it’s not the thrills that make a thriller great.
Don’t get me
wrong, they’re important. As readers, we
want to be held in a state of sustained adrenaline, to have the tension
ratcheted tighter and tighter and then, impossibly, tighter still. We want to face impossible odds while playing
for the highest imaginable stakes.
All of which John
Rector does, masterfully. But that’s not
what makes Out of the Black a great
It’s a hundred other
beautifully drawn protagonist. Matt Caine
is a father and an ex-Marine and a widower and a friend and a kidnapper, but
more than all of that, he’s a guy you can believe in, a character so
substantial he could hold a door for you.
It’s his stomach-knuckling
loss over the death of his wife, killed in a car accident before the book opens. A loss that Matt has barely begun to deal
with; a loss so devastating and raw you can’t help but experience it yourself.
tenderness and complexity and depth of his relationship with his daughter Anna,
and the distances he will go for her.
It’s the nuanced
interactions between every character.
These aren’t chess pieces shoved around a board; they’re people caught
in an untenable situation, all of them doing the best they can, and all with something
It’s the courage
of Rector’s storytelling convictions, which eschew easy answers and Hollywood solutions.
It’s the elegance
of the prose, every word selected with precision and soul.
It’s the way the
book is rich enough to savor but tense enough that you simply can’t, instead
whipping through it as fast as your eyes can take in the pages.
especially, it’s that once you do finish, you’ll find the story stays with you;
that you’re haunted by the histories and choices, the costs and consequences—and
especially by the shattering conclusion.
There are a lot of
thrillers, but few really great ones.