Hunting Down Amanda

Hunting Down Amanda by Andrew KlavanAmanda has a gift that enables her to bring the dead back to life. Each time she uses it she dies a little. Her mother wants to hide and protect her but others are out to use her regardless of her age or the eventual outcome.

1999 may be Klavan’s breakout year: the film version of his novel True Crime, starring Clint Eastwood, was a hit, and Morrow is backing his immensely exciting new novel with a major promo campaign. Any breakout will be past due. Admirers of Klavan thrillers acknowledged (Don’t Say a Word, etc.) and pseudonymous (as Keith Peterson, The Scarred Man, etc.) know that this author at his best bows to no one for whiplash plotting and page-whirling suspense. He’s at his best here. The novel opens full-tilt, with a rain of flesh and “liquid fire” on a small town in Massachusetts. Into the ground-level conflagration caused by the plane explosion walks a little girl. Her mother, Carol Dodson, chases after her and finds her in the arms of a man staggering through the fire, who hands the girl to Carol. “Oh God,” Carol says in a moment of clarity whose significance is revealed only later, “now they’ll come after her.” And a team of villains does, with shocking fierceness, alerted to Amanda’s location by the incident and headed by one Edmund Winter, a killer as stone-cold as his name and dispatched by a multinational corporation with a lethalAif a bit too incredibleAinterest in both little Amanda and the man at the crash site. Fighting to save the girl are several equally desperate characters, including her mother, now on the run, willing to do anything, including selling her body, for her daughter; Lonnie Blake, a soul-blasted jazz musician looking for a reason to live; and an embittered lit professor stricken with cancer. Related in trim, athletic prose, the novel unfolds around New England and New York City as an extended, twisty chase, breathtaking but seriously deepened by its fallible heroes’ varied struggles for redemption. The ending is a kick in the solar plexus but feels just right: this is a thriller with smarts equal to its ultra-slick style. $300,000 ad/promo; author tour; rights sold in the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Holland and Japan.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The inventive and audacious Andrew Klavan never covers the same ground twice, and his latest psychological thriller is about as far as you can get from his previous bestsellers, True Crime and The Uncanny.
What all his books have in common is a growing assurance as you turn the first few pages that you’re in good, honorable hands–that the author won’t trick you shamelessly or go off on some tedious tangent. So, without losing a beat, a book that begins with a horrible plane explosion that rains down fire over a Massachusetts village can shift seamlessly into a jazz musician’s hunt for his lost love and an executive hit man’s search for a little girl.

When that plane crashes over the small coastal town of Hunnicut (in a scene probably better not read during or just before a flight of your own), 5-year-old Amanda Dodson–”a roundish little mixed-race girl with a quiet, thoughtful manner”–escapes from her babysitter’s burning house and wanders into the woods. That’s where her young mother, Carol, who works as a cocktail waitress (and does occasional sexual favors for customers), finds her after an agonizing search. With Amanda is one of the plane’s passengers, apparently brought back to life by the girl’s formidable healing abilities. “Now they’ll come after her!” Carol Dodson cries, before fleeing with the child to New York City.

In Manhattan, she has a brief encounter with a grieving saxophone genius named Lonnie Blake. Captivated by her resemblance to his late wife, Blake tries to find Carol again, but he is not the only one hunting down Carol and Amanda. Others want to capture the little girl to exploit her amazing healing powers for profit.

In lesser hands, these ingredients might add up to nothing more than a shameless potboiler, but Klavan has powers of his own–a magic touch that humanizes even the smallest characters and makes them a part of our own world. – Dick Adler

Five-year-old Amanda Dodson has an amazing talentshe can sparkle people and cure their illnesses, even bring them back from the dead. Which is why the executives at Helix Pharmaceuticals, the company responsible for the illegal secret drug testing that both killed her father and imparted her gift, would very much like to find Amandathey could make a profit by secretly selling her healing gift and simultaneously destroy evidence as she dies from the effort. The only thing standing in their way is Amandas mother, Carol, desperately clever and willing to stop at nothing to save her daughter. Will Carol succeed in eluding the relentless pursuers and save Amanda? Klavan (The Uncanny, LJ 10/15/97) provides realistic characters, really evil villains, and a breakneck pace to raise this thriller above the basic cat-and-mouse formula. This will appeal to James Patterson fans and is recommended for all fiction collections. – Rebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ., Hammond, IN
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Edgar-winning Klavan (The Uncanny, 1998, etc.) offers a stylish new thriller that turns on a jazz variation of the Orpheus and Eurydice legend. In a fabulous, Lockerbie-like opening, a 747 jet blows up at 30,000 feet, raining fire from its freshly filled gas tanks on a tourist town below, where houses explode and burning people run everywhere. A lone surviving passenger (vice president of Helix Pharmaceuticals) walks out of a woods without a scratch on him, carrying a little girl named Amanda. Klavan then shifts into the Greek legend. Orpheus is depressed black tenor sax player Lonnie Blake, whose wife was murdered two years earlier. When a prostitute named Carol begs him to take her into his apartment and save her from a gravel-faced figure in the night, Lonnie seems to recover his dead wife Suzanne. But Carol leaves, and Lonnie starts a long chase after her, only to discover shes also being pursued by super-smooth, ice-cold killer Winter (or shall we say Pluto?). Winter has a vast lech for Carol, but what he really wants is her five-year-old daughter Amanda, who can heal terminal cancer victims and raise the dead. She and her mother complete the character of Eurydice (or spring-bearing Persephone). Winter is North American bureau chief of Executive Decisions, a private force that hires itself to companies and countries for bloody covert actions. E.D. has been retained by billion-dollar Helix Pharmaceuticals to recover the offspring of Carols dead husband, a healer the drug company used for experiments in the genetically enhanced laying-on of hands. A story that opens with dynamite should close with TNT, and Klavans sixth outing does indeed end strikingly on a reversal of the legend. Without the humor that lightened True Crime (1995), but, still, certain to please readers who like their entertainment with literary flourishes. And, yes, there is a cave of Tartarean darkness. ($300,000 ad/promo)
Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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