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When famous detectives come together

What happens when you have 22 famous literary sleuths team up, pitch against and help out each other in a world full of crime? The result is Face Off, a book edited by famous thriller author David Baldacci who strings up 11 short stories co-written by famous best-selling writers such as Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Steve Martini, Jeffrey Deaver, and Lee Child, among others.

Face Off
Face Off features 11 stories crafted by 22 crime writers and edited by David Baldacci, a thriller writer himself

The book is an initiative by the International Thriller Writers (ITW) organisation, formed in 2004 that currently boasts of 2,500 members, including thriller writers, agents, editors and fans. They host Thrillerfest, a summer camp for thriller writers and enthusiasts annually. Under their aegis, they also publish literary works and in the past they have published Thriller (2006), an anthology of short stories, followed by Thriller 2 (2009) and the novel, Love Is Murder (2012). Face Off is the latest of their offerings.

Face Off
Face Off, Edited by David Baldacci, Hachette, Rs 499. Available at leading bookstores.

There are many reasons why the book is special. As the foreword by Baldacci mentions, the book is the result of writers donating their stories and author-editors volunteering their time to bring 11 riveting reads for their readers. The money earned through the book sales will also be routed back to the ITW for their activities. Since the writers are legally under contract with their respective publishing houses, they aren’t allowed to team up with writers represented by others. Bypassing this hitch, the notion of combining their characters only becomes possible due to the ITW model where stories are donated and the revenue goes towards the organisation.

Plus, the fact that the book is peppered with characters like Jack Reacher, John Rebus, Harry Bosch, Lincoln Rhyme, Repairman Jack and Cotton Malone who meet each other and have a face-off seemed more exciting to us as a reader. Every chapter also starts off with an introduction of the writers, their characters, and how the story happened.

Some of the short stories were quite interesting, such as In The Nick Of Time by authors Ian Rankin and Peter James about a man confessing to a crime on his deathbed for which no evidence is available and Infernal Night by Heather Graham and F Paul Wilson, which revolves around extracting a mysterious artefact from a mausoleum. But there are other stories that often seem too abrupt and don’t excite the imagination. The reason could be the lack of space as these writers are after all used to having their say in full-fledged novels. The premise here is challenging: to fit in famous characters and their quirks in a complete thriller short story.

All in all, while it features an appealing line-up of authors and characters, we were expecting more from the plotlines and the denouement. This one is for die-hard crime fans only.

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