FaceOff edited by David Baldacci

FaceOff Book CoverA Unique and Thrilling Anthology – 3.8 Stars

When I saw an anthology that had Cotton Malone and Grayson Pierce in the same story, I had to get my hands on the book.  I don’t know about you, but I would love to read a cross over novel with my favorite characters.  Unfortunately, the cross over novels will never occur but this is a fun substitute.  I did a short review of each story and averaged the ratings out to 3.8 stars.  Most of the stories were great while a couple lacked.  Some of the biggest authors here gave a below average stories but there were plenty of great stories to go around.  This is a fun anthology that is well worth the read.

RED EYE – 3.5 Stars
Dennis Lehane vs. Michael Connelly
Patrick Kenzie vs. Harry Bosch

The PI and the Police officer meet in this short story.  Harry Bosch finds himself in Boston looking for DNA to close a decade old cold case.  In the process he finds himself on Kenzie’s turf while Kenzie is tracking down a missing girl.  As their interests seem to be the same, they assist each other to find some evidence they hope will assist them both to close their case.

There is interesting dialogue between these two type A personalities as each tries to up the other once or twice and one finds himself as the butt end of a joke or two.  The two writing styles matched well and the result was an above average short story.  The authors faced an obvious issue of deciding how to get a Boston PI and LA Detective into the same story.  The reasoning was a bit forced but the writing was good.  I have not read anything by Lehane or Connelly so I cannot comment on how each author dealt with their character.

IN THE NICK OF TIME – 4 Stars
Ian Rankin vs. Peter James
John Rebus vs. Roy Grace

We have the meeting of the Scot and the Brit in this short story.  A dying man gives a deathbed confession to John Rebus that tells of  a murder he committed 50 years earlier in England.  In an effort to provide closure to a cold case, Rebus is connected with Peter James in England who is provided with the details.  When the case is investigated, not all is as it seems and the story ends with a surprise twist.

I have read some of the Rebus novels but have not read the Roy Grace novels. Rebus was true to character.  It was interesting to see two generations of Police Officers and two styles and ideas on investigation and policing.  This story has me looking to go back to the Rebus Series and to give Roy Grace a shot.

Again, the authors had to figure out how to connect two detectives from two different countries.  They came up with a plausible reason although I did not understand why Rebus had to fly to England to follow up.  The writing style flowed exceptionally well and it was a well crafted and complete short story.
GASLIGHTED – 3 Stars
R. L. Stine vs. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy vs. Aloysius Pendergast

Odd…..  R.L. Stine of  Goosebumps  fame teams up with the Preston/Child writing duo.  FBI agent Pendergast wakes up to find himself tied to a bed a surrounded by dead people from his past.  The dead persons tell him he is in fact alive and in a sanatorium.  Apparently, he has “cracked” from years of traumatic experiences.  The creepy surroundings are punctuated by a creepy Ventriloquist Dummy sitting on a chair in his room.  Pendergast has to separate fiction from reality to determine if he is simply dreaming or part of some nefarious scheme.

I have to say the idea of putting these authors together was interesting.  I have read several Preston and Child books but have no experience with R.L. Stine.  That said, I could see Stine`s influence on the story.  Unfortunately, the result was disjointed and confusing.  I think three cooks in this kitchen was a bit much.

Apparently, Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy is one of Stine`s most famous characters but the characters involvement in the story was never really clear.  It didn`t work well as a short story but I could see this as an interesting idea were it fleshed out into a full fledged novel.

THE LAUGHING BUDDHA – 4.5 Stars
M. J. Rose vs. Lisa Gardner
Malachai Samuels vs. D. D. Warren

In this short story, each of the authors most popular characters meet in Boston’s Chinatown.  As Detective D.D. Warren is investigating the death of a prominent antiquities dealer, Malachai Samuels becomes a person of interest and Detective Warren has a few questions to be answered.  Meanwhile, Malachai Samuels is on a quest to find ancient information that will unlock a person’s past life memories.  The pragmatic D.D. Warren meets the mystical Malachai Samuels and motives for real crimes are revealed by unnatural means.

This story was very well written. The two characters are very different and their belief systems are polar opposites.  At this point in the novel, this story is the most polished and well rounded.  It likely benefits from the fact it is a bit longer but it has  tight internal plot.  The reason it did not get a full 5 stars is that it was really a Malachai Samuels story with D.D. Warren in a cameo appearance.  Regardless, an interesting mystery with a supernatural twist.

SURFING THE PANTHER – 5 Stars
Steve Martini vs. Linda Fairstein
Paul Madriani vs. Alexandra Cooper

Defence Attorney Paul Madriani and Prosecutor Alexandra Cooper meet up a legal conference where they are both presenters.  After a heated presentation, DA Alex Cooper pushed Madriani for some detail on a high profile trial he has coming up.  Paul is reluctant to share information with a DA regardless of where she is from.  Their discussion is interrupted by a gentleman who has evidence that Madriani’s client is innocent of the crime.  What follows is political intruge, international connections and just deserts.

Martini and Fairstein write a flawless short story.  Their characters remain together for much of the story and the result is a thrilling and interesting tale.  Since I started practicing law, I have shied away from legal thrillers.  I haven’t even read kept up with John Grisham.  This short story may have sparked my interest once again and Linda Fairstein has  made her way to my To Be Read list.  An excellent story.

RHYMES WITH PREY – 2.5
Jeffery Deaver vs. John Sandford
Lincoln Rhyme vs. Lucas Davenport

Rhyme, Davenport and their sidekicks team up to investigate the death of some women, some police and something else…  Way too much going on in this story.  Instead of incorporating two people, this story deals with four.  It was difficult to follow and did not flow especially well.  I did not enjoy this one.

INFERNAL NIGHT – 4 Stars
Heather Graham vs. F. Paul Wilson
Michael Quinn vs. Repairman Jack

In this short story, Quinn and Jack are unknowingly hired by the same client to complete competing jobs.  As they are both suspicious from the outset, they use a little ingenuity and quick thinking to turn the situation around while serving others their just deserts.

The writing styles meshed well.  As both the characters were aware of the supernatural, their shared worldview made the story believable.  While shorter than most of the others, it was interesting.
PIT STOP – 5 Stars
Raymond Khoury vs. Linwood Barclay
Sean Reilly vs. Glen Garber

Since Barclay does not use recurring character, he pulled a protagonist from a 2011 novels.  The average guy Glen Garber is distraught when his daughter is taken hostage by an unknown assailant.  Fortunately, FBI Agent Reilly is on the case.  The majority of the story is chase scene with the characters in pursuit.  It is by far the most exciting and thrilling story in this anthology.  5 bigs star for this interesting and exciting story.

SILENT HUNT – 4.5
John Lescroart vs. Jefferson Parker
Wyatt Hunt vs. Joe Trona

Wyatt Hunt and Joe Trona come together on a fishing trip in Mexico.  While they did not know each other previously, they come to trust each other when their fishing guide and his family is threatened by some drug lords who are aware that the family had recently found gold in a mine.  Using their wits and skills, these two characters devise a clever plan to both thwart the would be killers while protecting the villagers and ensuring their future is protected.

The writing styles of the authors meshed well and they wrote an interesting and coherent story.  As an added bonus, the story was one of the most clever and well thought out.

THE DEVIL’S BONES – 5 STARS
James Rollins vs. Steve Berry
Grayson Pierce vs. Cotton Malone

Honestly, I read the entire anthology just for this story.  I am a big fan of both characters and was excited to see them in a story together.  The story did not disappoint.  Both characters were unknowingly in search of a newly developed and highly dangerous plant based toxin.  To ensure it does not fall into the hands of terrorist, both characters have been dispatched to retrieve it.  When they discover each others goals, they decide to work together just as everything thing goes to hell around them.  In regular Berry and Rollins style, guns, explosions and grave danger culminate in grand encounter and a narrow escape.  These two authors worked well together.  Too bad we won’t see a crossover novel.

GOOD AND VALUABLE CONSIDERATION – 1.5 STARS
Lee Child vs. Joseph Finder
Jack Reacher vs. Nick Heller

Considering Jack Reacher is arguably the most recognizable character in this anthology, I expected this final story to be the best of the lot.  Instead, it was a stream of consciousness piece of garbage.  There was a mirror and Reacher and Heller were there.  I’m not sure why they were there or what else was going on.  Maybe the authors told us but they did a crappy job of it.  Skip the last one.

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Tim Written by:

Tim is a lawyer, sports fan, parent, husband and book lover. He runs his own legal practice and is the founder of The Literary Lawyer book blog and a contributing writer for baseballbabble.com. Tim loves to share his love of reading by providing reviews to entertain as well as provide information to help you make an informed reading decision.

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