Thursday, November 17, 2011

All Stirred Up: Blake Crouch & J.A. Konrath

Once again, I'm honored to have the privilege of reading an advanced copy of anything written by Blake Crouch and J.A. Konrath. This time, I was offered the opportunity to read their most recent collaboration, STIRRED, that concludes the Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite and Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels saga, respectively.

(Book Blurb)
"Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels has seen humanity at its most depraved and terrifying. She's lost loved ones. Come close to death countless times. But she always manages to triumph over evil. Luther Kite is humanity at its most depraved and terrifying. He's committed unthinkable acts. Taken human life for the sheer pleasure of it. He is a monster among monsters, and no one has ever caught him. Each is the best at what they do. Peerless. Unmatched.

Until now...

In Luther's experience, people are weak. Even the strong and fearless break too easily. He wants a challenge, and sets his depraved sights on Jack. But with a baby on the way, Jack is at her most vulnerable. She's always been a fighter, but she's never had so much to fight for. So he's built something especially for Jack. His own private ninth circle of hell--a nightmare world in a forgotten place from which no one has ever escaped.

It's J.A. Konrath's greatest heroine versus Blake Crouch's greatest villain in Stirred, the stunning conclusion to both Konrath's Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thriller series and Crouch's Andrew Z. Thomas series."

When I began STIRRED, I didn't know if I was going to be disappointed or elated over this final installment. I loved both series separately, but equally (I don't like to play favorites) and to be honest, I didn't know if these two grand masters of words could pull it off. I'm sure I won't be the first one (or the last) to say this but, they did. Not only did they deliver on their promise, but managed to do so so in spades.

As we've come to expect from both Crouch and Konrath, there is a lot of guts, gore, and gratuitous violence in this grand finale. Personally, that's what I've grown to love and expect about the stories they tell. But if you're the squeamish kind, don't let that dissuade you from reading STIRRED, or any of their other books in the series. While Blake and Joe have a penchant for violence in their tales, there's also a very strong underlying theme of love in this book. I don't know if it's intentional, or if I just find it in a lot of what I read, but it's there. And for you literary folks, there's enough reference to Dante's Inferno to keep you intrigued and guessing as to where they're going with this.

Having read every book in both sets of books, I was able to figure out some things as I read along and followed the clues, but I was completely floored at the end. After I finished STIRRED, I actually had to go back and read the last pages of some their other works (KILLERS and BREAK YOU) to see if I had missed anything that would have hinted at the ending.

Crouch and Konrath left a few things open at its conclusion and I wouldn't be surprised if, in the somewhat distant future, we see some of our favorite villains, sipping margaritas and plotting revenge, in some touristy tropical destination (somewhere near the Bermuda Triangle, I'm sure).

(Side Note:) For those who haven't read either series or just one of the series, the author's did allow for STIRRED to be read as a stand alone novel. Not only that, but they added interactive links within the book every time a character is introduced, referencing their original appearance. Nice touch guys...but I must say to those readers out there, you lose the entire perspective if you don't go back and read both series, including all the novellas and shorts that are included in the universe.

(Oh, yeah:) A word to the wise, have some fritos or pork rinds handy before you begin reading STIRRED. For the first half of the story, Jack ate so much junk food, I totally had the munchies the entire 7 hours it took me to read it. All I had was an apple pie, so I ate that...

Q&A with Blake Crouch and J.A. Konrath

1. Did you ever imagine, when writing your respective series, that it would turn into something much grander like STIRRED?

Not at all. Even when we first wrote "Serial" (our first collaboration) we thought it was a one-off kind of thing. But as that expanded to "Serial Uncut" and "Birds of Prey" we started to understand how we could link our series together (through the villains). By last summer (2010), it was obvious that we needed to do a collaboration novel that concluded both of our series.

2. For Joe - I'm dying to know. What happened to Alex Kork? I thought for sure she'd show up somewhere, helping Luther along the way.

You've got to read Serial Killers Uncut, which is the companion double novel to Stirred and our respective series. It contains every villain we've ever written, and yes, there is an, um...interesting interlude with Luther and Alex.

3. For Blake - I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I'll ask this as generic as I can... Did you change the relationship between Andrew and Luther when writing STIRRED or did you already have that in mind when you wrote BREAK YOU and KILLERS?

I already knew what we were going to do in Stirred while writing Break You and Killers. Break You is essentially the set up for Stirred.

4. If STIRRED was made into a movie, who do you envision playing Andrew, Luther, Jack, and Harry McGlade?

Andy: John Cusack

Luther: Christian Bale

Jack: I will not sell the movie rights to the series, because the only person who can play Jack Daniels on the screen is me.

Harry McGlade: Due to the magic of Hollywood cinema, I can also play Harry.

5. I have followed both your writing careers, both as a reader and a writer. Do you two have any other collaborative projects in the works?

We are going to be writing a followup to Draculas called Wolfmen. It'll be Joe and Blake and two new writers. Joe is writing more in the Flee series with Ann Voss Peterson. Blake's also doing some collaborations with some new blood.

Thanks so much guys for taking the time to answer my questions! 

STIRRED goes on sale November 22nd!

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