Set in a region of rural Oklahoma known as Tornado Alley, this gale-force thriller charts the warped progress of a serial killer who strikes only during tornadoes and models his handiwork on their devastation. That should be enough of a charge for one book, but such is Blanchard's artistry that she whips up even more excitement by taking us joy riding with storm chasers who jump into their trucks and ride into the path of the big twisters.
Blanchard's gripping second thriller follows a smalltown police chief's pursuit of a serial killer who strikes only during tornadoes, but the "Debris Killer" is only one of the highlights of this fast-moving shocker, which also features the keen characterizations and fine atmospherics of the author's first thriller, Darkness Peering. Charlie Grover, Blanchard's sympathetic hero, lives in Promise, Okla., deep in "Tornado Alley." Recently widowed, Charlie is the physically and emotionally scarred survivor of a childhood fire that killed his mother and sister, and the father of a sweet 16-year-old daughter enchanted by a teenage storm-chaser ("the kind of troubled youth who gave troubled youths a bad name"). After Promise is hit by a severe tornado, Charlie discovers three bodies in a house with only minor damage. Their deaths are particularly gruesome-mother, father and daughter have all been impaled by flying debris; the father is "stuck like a pin cushion"-and Charlie quickly realizes that this is not the work of a storm. The bodies display defensive wounds and, worse, the killer's "signature": each has had a tooth extracted and replaced with another tooth. Charlie seeks the help of spunky scientist Willa Bellman, who introduces him to the art of storm-chasing ("heroin for the heartland") and slowly reawakens his heart. As tornado season comes on, more victims are discovered, and Charlie begins to suspect someone very close to him, before the murderer leads him on a final terrifying chase that will have readers gasping. Blanchard makes a bold move by linking her villain to tornadoes-each such powerful forces of destruction and chaos-and while it's a little far-fetched, it pays off in this dark depiction of environmental and human turmoil. (Nov. 11) Forecast: Twister may have been a dud, but Hollywood is betting on this Twister-Thomas Harris hybrid (screen rights have been bought by Warner Bros.-based John Wells Productions) and foreign rights have been sold in Germany, Holland, Italy and the U.K. Gale force sales are predicted. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Blanchard (Darkness Peering) has laced together a breathtaking vortex of a story about love, death, murder, and ordinary people living chaotic lives in Promise, OK, and its surroundings-known, notoriously, as tornado alley. Police Chief Charlie Grover, physically and emotionally scarred many years before by burns sustained in a sweeping family tragedy, now hunts for a serial killer whose murders take place in the path of tornadoes. Widowed when his wife died of brain cancer, Charlie has fought to keep up a personal life raising his teen daughter and finding new relationships. As Charlie pieces together the evidence from murder to murder, he discovers the killer's distinctive signature and tries to unravel the pattern. Well paced, well plotted, and beautifully written, Breathtaker succeeds as a gripping thriller and a well-told tale. John Wells Productions (White Oleander) has bought the film rights. Highly recommended for all popular collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/03.]-Michelle Foyt, Russell Lib., Middletown, CT Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In a near-miss thriller, a twisted killer strikes only during twisters. To Police Chief Charlie Glover of Promise, Oklahoma-smack in the heart of Tornado Alley-the deaths were tragic, certainly, but hardly unpredictable. After all, it had been an F-3 ("severe" on the twister-monitoring Fujita Scale), and no one at all familiar with tornado patterns could doubt that big-time damage was in the cards. Yet the house belonging to the late Rob Pepper and his family was still standing, and it shouldn't have been-that was the first anomaly. But it was when Charlie got his first up-close look at the battered victims that he knew a clever murderer had used the storm's violence to camouflage his own, that there was an ugly triple homicide on his plate. On the hands and forearms of all three Charlie saw obvious defensive wounds. Then later, during autopsy, the medical examiner confronted him with a finding that could only be categorized as demented, and he faced the fact that he'd been landed with a case custom-made for headlines and headaches. All three corpses possessed . . . well, call it a posthumous tooth: that is, a tooth that had started out in the mouth of another. Subsequent storms, subsequent victims, subsequent errant teeth. Where did they come from? And what kind of mind would contemplate so weird a transplantation? Charlie, a widower, coping with a teenaged daughter's incipient rebellion, a budding romance on its way to becoming important, and some complicated office politics, now had to chase a killer with a thing about teeth and a savvy about twisters that would make him one hard sociopath to bring down. Storywriter and second-novelist Blanchard (Darkness Peering, 1999) offers anintriguing cast and some good action scenes, but try as she will, she just can't make a print-bound storm powerful enough to blow readers away. Film rights to John Wells Productions/Warner Bros.