‘The October List’ is a crime novel with a fabulous twist: the story unfolds in reverse. Think ‘Memento’ but with fewer tattoos and less treachery. Nah, I’m kidding. There’s plenty of treachery.

The idea

Gabriela’s daughter has been kidnapped. She is waiting desperately for news.

The door opens, but it isn’t Gabriela’s negotiators: it’s her daughter’s kidnapper. With a gun.

Two days ago, life was normal. How did it end like this?

The execution

From the opening pages, Deaver creates uncertainty and mystery, particularly around Gabriela. (How can she knit when her daughter is missing?) When the kidnapper appears with a gun, we may even question whether or not Gabriela let him in (she went to check the deadbolt, right?) but we still desperately want to know what will happen next. Instead of simply going back to the beginning as many crime novels would at this point, Deaver takes us back to a mere 40 minutes earlier, and so the fun begins.

As the deaths mount up, (or do they?) each character’s true motivations remain just out of sight until a beautifully orchestrated set of final chapters that will leave readers gasping for breath. Think of Russian nesting dolls. Devious Russian nesting dolls!

The oblique nature of events is supported by the photographs which preface each chapter, each of which is titled in a way that may illuminate or further obfuscate the events within.

Final thoughts

This was a fantastically gripping read with a fantastic denouement. Deaver has really set this up well – told forward this story would hold no mystery; told backwards it regularly punches you with new information that puts a totally different spin on what happened previously…and by previously, I mean a few minutes later, obviously! It might sound confusing but it isn’t at all. Deaver handles the twists skilfully and this truly could be likened to a rollercoaster ride in places. Certainly my stomach took a dive or too!

A treat for crime fans.

‘The October List’,
Jeffrey Deaver,
2014, Hodder, paperback