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Watchlist – A Serial Thriller by ITW – Book Reviews

Suspense and crime thrillers form a huge chunk of books published every year with a massive following of avid readers eagerly waiting for the next story in a series by their favorite writer involving their equally famous creations.

In 2004, some of the most successful names in this industry came together to form “International Thriller Writers (ITW)“. One of the founding board members Jeffery Deaver (The Bone Collector fame) was given a task, as he himself puts:

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to come up with an innovative idea to help put a brand new writers’ organisation on the map and then convince top thriller writers to donate their ideas and their time to make it work.

Jeffery Deaver did accept the mission and then started the first phase: brainstorming for ideas. Naturally, they all came up with some fantastic ideas and some not so workable ones. But, the idea we are talking about today is the one where ITW brought multiple writers on board to write a single adventure. A story for which every chapter will be written by a different writer and these chapters were planned to be released as a weekly supplement in form of an audio file on Audible.com.

The idea was good but there were practical difficulties to be thought of. Jeffery Deaver was quite apprehensive to approach some of the most successful names in writing business to give up their time and ideas for free when they get paid in millions and have humongous fan following, to write just a fragment of a story in a way that it will still fit-in with what others were writing. However, the proposal was received quite enthusiastically by everyone approached.

And thus came into existence the ITW series called “Watchlist” – featuring a group called “The Volunteers“.

Headed by ex-American army Colonel Harold Middleton, this group’s mission is to track war criminals and bring them to justice at the international crime courts. As the name implies, they have no official standing or authority, and do not get paid for their efforts. But, they do have connections, ways to get information and a strong will to see justice done and human rights avenged.

First book in the series is called “The Chopin Manuscript” and following is the list of authors that contributed to it:

Chapter Author
1 Jeffery Deaver
2 David Hewson
3 James Grady
4 S.J. Rozan
5 Erica Spindler
6 John ramsey Miller
7 David Corbett
8 John Gilstrap
9 Joseph Finder
10 Jim Fusilli
11 Peter Spiegelman
12 Ralph Pezzullo
13 Lisa Scottoline
14 P. J. Parrish
15 Lee Child
16 Jeffery Deaver
17 Jeffery Deaver

The idea for this book was provided by Jeffery Deaver and he sets of the story in Poland with introducing Middleton, some maniac killers and a musical manuscript deemed to be fake. However, Middleton is being chased across the Atlantic and soon people are dying left, right and center as we proceed through the chapters.

New characters are introduced and the chase is up going through all too familiar pattern of guns and shooting, explosion and mercenary killers, friends cum relatives turned traitors…

The central theme is that during the second World War, the Nazis encrypted the information on their mass destructive chemicals/gases and stored it into a manuscript by Chopin which modern day terrorists are active seeking.

The manuscript was originally stored in an Eastern Orthodox Church in Kosovo from where an appalling war criminal stole it, killing hundreds of innocent civilians in process. It is now upto Middleton and his friends to protect the manuscript and the secret.

Considering that 14 different writers contributed from start to end, there are some holes in the story here and there and it is very hard to expect any sort of consistent behaviour from the characters. Jeffery Deaver does try very well to bring it all together in the last two chapters, making it an entertaining read on the whole.

The Chopin Manuscript was the first audio release of its kind (25/09/2007 – 13/11/2007) and made it to the best-seller list. Encouraged by its success the second instalment was released in 2009 called “ The Copper Bracelet“.

Now, “The Copper Bracelet” starts with an Indian sharp-shooter and mention of Kareena Kapoor in the very first chapter. The story is full of Indian and Pakistani characters and the secret mission of the main antagonist Devras Sikari is no less than achieving freedom for Jammu and Kashmir. While the members of his group sport a copper bracelet with Sanskrit verses of Dhammapada etched onto it, does the copper bracelet also refer to hi-fi nuclear reactor? The story snakes through heavy water manufacturing facilities, nuclear patents, thermobaric explosives and hi-tech tracking gear with the backdrop changing from USA to Europe to Russia to China, with grand finale taking place in Jammu and Kashmir.

Once again, although gaps in the story and inconsistency in characters does make it a bit of drag at times, Indian readers will have fun pointing out mistakes and thinking:

That’s not how we are…

Here is the list of contributors to “The Copper Bracelet“:

Chapter Author
1 Jeffery Deaver
2 Gayle Lynds
3 David Hewson
4 Jim Fusilli
5 John Gilstrap
6 Joseph Finder
7 Lisa Scottoline
8 David Corbett
9 Linda Barnes
10 Jenny Siler
11 David Liss
12 P.J. Parrish
13 Brett Battles
14 Lee Child
15 Jon Land
16 James Phelan
17 Jeffery Deaver

Above all, reading these books confirmed for us that:

Writing is after all a serious business

If you are a productive writer (like most of our popular writers are), you can practically write anything i.e., you have a germ of an idea and there is sort of a story…you are given a set of characters and asked to give the story just one push… and they do manage the task very well. Some of the chapters are not really taking the story anywhere but there is still some entertainment value in those.

Modern thriller writing sometimes feels like a cocktail of a fair bit of research in current affairs, a set of good looking, highly trained spooks and killers, exotic locales, high-end travelling and of course lots of money thrown in. But, hey if that’s the sort of escape you like, it is all in there for you….

You can also use these books as your barometer, read it and see which chapter you like best and you probably have discovered a new writer and a whole new world of thrillers…


Over to you

What do you think about this concept? Do you like it? Have you got chance to read either of the books so far? Share your thoughts, views, reviews and genuine opinions with us via comments below.

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