Devil's Plaything: A Mystery for Idle MindsUpon seeing that, I did the friendly thing and sent him a brief note of congratulations. His response, moments later was, "Huh? Can u send? Haven't seen it!" (Those novelists, they do have a way with words.) I replied, "Oh, honestly... Don't you have 'people' for this sort of thing?" But I was delighted to be the bearer of good news, and Matt's reaction was suitably gratifying. Plus, I was deemed "awesome," just for reading the trades.
Matt Richtel. Poisoned Pen, $24.95 (342p) ISBN 978-1-59058-887-1
In Richtel's deft follow-up to Hooked (2007), medical reporter Nat Idle thinks someone taking potshots at him and his beloved grandmother, Lane, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, may be payback for his snide exposé involving city officials and torched port-a-potties. Further attacks and an encrypted flash drive from a scientist who subsequently disappears soon indicate otherwise, and Lane's disjointed statements related to a computer-assisted oral history project suggest that she may know more than she's capable of revealing about a larger conspiracy. Surrounded by dubious figures such as a mysterious venture capitalist, an anal-retentive nursing home manager, a neurologist with suspicious connections, and a colorful witch who reads people's auras, Nat is wary of trusting anyone and frantic for Lane's safety. Numerous plot twists and cliffhangers keep the reader turning the pages in this plausible if disquieting scenario of Big Brother not only watching but also messing with minds. (May) Reviewed on: 03/28/2011
Hooked, was published. It would have been BEA (BookExpo America) 2007. His publisher had chosen the title as their "buzz" book for the season--an honor that will reliably capture my attention. I grabbed a couple three galleys and was more than satisfied when I read it later. In fact, I became a fan. The extra galleys circulated through my book group and generated lively discussion over the course of several months. It's quite possible that I may have sent him a brief email telling him the novel was awesome. I don't really remember.
I do remember that Matt was participating in a book group discussion at the Books, Inc. in Laurel Village, and my friend Ann and I crashed it. I wound up having a nice chat with Matt afterwards, and we've remained friendly ever since. Ironically, we're both here in San Francisco, but I probably see him more often in New York. (Ah, but those crazy NY nights are tales for another day. A day when I want to embarrass David Liss.) Incidentally, Matt has kept his day job--when not writing thrillers, he's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist writing about technology for the New York Times. I know, it's enough to make a person sick.
I haven't read Devil's Plaything yet. Well, I read some very early drafts that bear little resemblance to the book that's about to be published. As it happens, while I was looking for photos to steal for this blog post, I stumbled upon an excellent interview that ran in the Chron a few months ago. I like it because it really sounds like Matt's voice and it's quite interesting. And in reading the interview, I realized that I was one of the early people he refers to bouncing ideas off of during the hellish period. I feel proud.
Anyway, the galley is loaded up on my Kindle, and I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing it this month. (In case you're wondering, the reason I have so many writer friends is that I offer them unvarnished criticism. If I'll do it for hours with a manuscript in hand, I have no compunction about doing so in a review.) Look for a review here in the next few weeks. For now, I highly recommend Hooked, which has one of the best thriller openings I've ever read. And while the same protagonist, Nat Idle, is back in Devil's Plaything, as far as I know, you absolutely don't need to have read Hooked first. Somewhat strangely, Devil's Plaything is being published in hardback on May 3, 2011 by Poisoned Pen Press, and being published as a mass market paperback on May 31, 2011 by HarperCollins. So, pick your format or go electronic. And, if you do give Matt a read, let me know what you think in the comments.