12.26.2007

Reading Life 18

Acceleration by Graham McNamee



I'm a huge fan of thrillers: Mankell is one, Deaver another, Lehane too. In the world of YA literature, though, a really good edge-of-your-seater is hard to come by. I mean, there are good ones out there, I'm sure, but as for really good, in the same vein and at the same heart-wrenching, neck-breaking speed as those by the three mentioned above--tough to come across one, and let's leave it at that.

A month or so ago I visited with my editor at Random House, and just outside her office there's a glass bookshelf filled with so many books, and I'm there, so she says to me, "René, would you like to take a couple titles with you?" Are you nuts? I'm thinking. I'll take the whole bunch. I don't say this, only think it, right, not wanting to come across like the book-grubber that I am. At this moment I can't recall the different books I left with that evening; all I know is that she offered and I took. She suggested a few titles, among them McNamee's Acceleration. Listen, it's an older title, from back in 2003 (okay, older if we're talking dog years, but still, it's no spring chicken). I brought it home with me to Texas and set it aside. I meant for my wife to read it. She also likes thrillers and detective mysteries and is a voracious reader; if she read it and liked it, she'd say so and I'd put it on my to-read pile. But then the book ended up put away on a dresser. We must've been cleaning for one dinner party or another and so I lost track of the book. That is, until recently. And one of the things I love about this kind of book is that for the slow reader that I am, I just can't put the book down once I've started it, so long as it's good. And I've got to finish it. This book's got it all: a grittiness, a darkness, that feeling of looking over your shoulder just to be on the safe side. I don't want to be caught in the killer's web.

So, the story's about this toilet-thieving kid, Duncan, long-time friends with Wayne (who's working a dead-end job at a fast food joint, a sort of criminal-lite) and friend of five years to Vinny (a smart guy with three fingers on one hand). Duncan's suffering from a year before having failed to save a girl from drowning. He can't get rid of the guilt. His dad tells him to let it go; that it's part of guys' genetic make-up to want to save a damsel in distress. But the guilt's stuck to him like sweat resulting from heat Toronto's going through at story's telling. Worse for Duncan, he works at a place he calls "the dungeon," what other public transportation employees call "the morgue." It's a lost and found, and he's in charge of fetching stuff from the back whenever, if ever, someone takes the elevator down, way down, to claim it. Otherwise, he sits in a lawn chair in the back packing junk in boxes to be taken away to sell at the Y. Or he rifles through lost things. One day, he finds a diary. Reading it, he discovers there's a serial killer in the making who's used the subway system to hunt for his victims and is now planning on doing the deed. Duncan, Vinny, and eventually Wayne (Duncan's devil on his shoulder and co-toilet thief) join forces to search for Roach, the would-be killer. The search for him alone is exciting, and the story just gets that much better (my leg was shaking and I was biting the skin on the tips of my fingers, and my wife's kind of giggling to herself that I'm getting so into the book, and I know she's gonna read this book right after I finish it) when Duncan is found out in Roach's lair. Thinking about it just now, I got a chill. I'm telling you: you've absolutely got to read it.

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