Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

Bobby Solomon, up and coming Hollywood star is on trial for the murder of his wife and bodyguard, and the high price celebrity law firm needs help to deal with the possibility that the police framed him – enter Eddie Flynn, a local conman-turned-lawyer, who, in the eyes of Solomon’s lawyers, is perfect cannon fodder in case the police corruption element turns sour.

Flynn is convinced that Solomon is innocent, but never expects where the killer is hiding. Because someone has stealthily made their way onto the jury. Someone who is determined to follow the trial every step of the way. Someone who is determined to get the right result.

The killer is on the jury, sitting in plain sight. And nobody has any idea…

I thought I’d take a brief dip into modern thriller territory because a) this was 99p and b) everybody and their brother seems to have been banging on about how wonderful this book is. It’s got a rating of 4.4 on Goodreads and 4.7 on Amazon, and take a look at the people raving about it in the blurb – Mark Billingham, Michael Connelly, Clare Mackintosh, Lee Child, Ian Rankin… blimey, it must be good, mustn’t it?

Well, let me make this clear from the start. I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s a fun, fast moving thriller from beginning to end, written from Eddie’s first person point of view alternating with a third person voice focussing on Joshua Kane, the juror, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s also as dumb as a mute swan who’s just taken a vow of silence.

Provided you detach the logical part of your brain, there’s a lot to like here, in the same way that there’s a lot to like in a fight between Superman and Lex Luthor (unless Zak Snyder directed it). Flynn has personal issues, not that they particularly impede the narrative, but in the courtroom, he never misses a trick. “He moves like a dancer and carries himself like a fighter.” He can probably crack walnuts between his buttocks as well – you think I exaggerate but he did once conduct a defence with a bomb strapped to his back.

On the other hand, Joshua Kane is one of those thriller villains who can basically do anything without even raising the slightest suspicions – until he crosses paths with Flynn, that is. The extent of Kane’s psychosis is developed through some flashbacks but it’s still a massive leap to his general MO which again seems like something out of a comic. The line of reasoning that enables Flynn to even get close to what Kane is doing… well, as I said, you need to leave logic at the door. The leaps in deductive reasoning/guesswork to establish he might be on the jury….

Still, you take the book as you find it and it’s extremely entertaining. Where I think it did fall down was in the final twists. There are two primary “reveals” in the narrative, one which I won’t mention as I think the fact that it needs to be revealed will be missed by some, and the second regarding the identity of his accomplice. Both of them needed to be developed more, in my opinion, and I’m not convinced that the second one made sense, given what Kane was trying to do early in the tale. I was hoping for something grander, more surprising, possibly as aspects of the tale reminded me for some reason of Jeffrey Deaver’s The Coffin Dancer which has a stunning twist, so these fell a little flat.

Admittedly, I seem to be in a minority on this one – writers that I regard highly seem to think this is the thriller of the year – and as I said, I did enjoy it. So if you want something fun that you don’t have to think about too hard, do give it a try. But if you want something deeper, then why not try something by the authors named above who seem to love this so much…

7 comments

  1. Some may accuse me of being cynical — ha! — but the more I see a book has been praised to the rafters by contemporaries of the author, the more suspicious I become that it’s simply a passable novel which needs a lot of hype from recognisable names to sell. Case in point: Think of a Number by John Verdon, which was praised by John Katzenbach, Faye Kellerman, S.J. Rozan, Reginald Hill (!?!?!), and others…and is probably one of the poorest piece of crime/triller fiction yet to be put out by a major publisher.

    Still, this does sound like a great hook, so if I want to switch my brain off I may still give it a go. And that’s all the publisher needs really, eh? Don’t worry, I consider myself warned… 🙂

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    • There is one author in particular whose name always seems to appear high on these pull quotes – not naming names, as I quite like his work, but I’m not sure there’s a modern thriller out there without his name singing it’s praises…

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