It was only as I fired up the scanner to get the cover of First Thrills (ISBN 978-1-84887-1, Corvus Books, 2011) that I saw that this was not a new Lee Child book, but was an anthology, and when I opened it, it became evident that the number of pages written by Lee Child was actually only 11.
When you look at the front cover of this book you can be taken in by the name “Lee Child” in large letters, below a line in a very small font admitting that the book was “Edited by and with a brand new story from” (Lee Child). Smart advertising or false advertising? It does not matter, but I was annoyed, principally at my own gullibility. This is not the way to sit down to begin to enjoy some good reading.
When I looked at this book in more detail, it was apparent that First Thrills was 25 short stories, written by 11 “big names” and 13 “new names”. If I am to believe Mr. Child’s introduction, his 11 big names (and himself) agreed to contribute to this collection, in a communal fit of altruism to “help” the new names gain exposure. I’m sorry, but I felt that he was probably being somewhat economical with the truth.
The first story was by Gregg Hurwitz, one of Mr. Child’s “big names”, with a very long CV and although the plot was quite different from the usual, I am hard-pressed to say it was a ‘thriller’. Only 16 pages in length, it became rather evident what was happening next by half way through.
I do not believe that thrillers fit into the format of the short story. Thrillers build up the suspense, make the reader try and work out who is the good guy, and who is the villain. The characterization of the principal subject of the book takes time too, if he or she is to be a believable person. I found this short story format left me looking for more. Where was the next chapter in this story? Unfortunately it wasn’t there, and never was going to be there. For that reason alone, I felt like I had just consumed a Chinese meal, which always seems to leave you vaguely dissatisfied. That feeling of dissatisfaction was enough to make me stop reading before I had got half way through the book. This does not happen often, especially with thrillers, so I have to say that this book was certainly not for me. Jeremy Clarkson can produce a wonderfully readable book made up of 52 short stories. But he is writing humor. The 25 short stories in First Thrills were not humorous. They were at best, mildly thrilling. But not satisfying. Sorry.
At only B. 385, this was not an expensive book on the Bookazine shelves, and with 25 short stories to consume, the group International Thriller Writers (ITW), on the surface, look to have compiled something that might work. But it didn’t, and in future, please do not try and trick people into believing they have found another Lee Child book!