By Jim Eldridge
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 14088 1719 3
Jim Eldridge is on to a winner with the idea behind The Invisible Assassin, the first book in a new series of youth fiction roller-coaster conspiracy thrillers. If the next stories are as gripping, original and fast-moving, he will have a massive hit on his hands.
Here is a novel that sets out its intentions in the first chapter and builds up the thrills layer by layer from a very intriguing opening.
The Invisible Assassin achieves utterly what it sets out to do. Eldridge wants to get his readers' adrenalin flowing as if they were watching a no-hold-barred action movie, and this is exactly what this fast and furious novel delivers.
But unlike many movies that set out to thrill the audience, there are no parts of The Invisible Assassin that sag through lack of plot or action. From the exciting start to the final pages of resolution, this novel speeds along confidently and relentlessly. All the reader can do is hang on tightly and enjoy the ride.
Nineteen-year-old Jake Wells is a trainee press officer for the government Department of Science, and he is sent out to cover stories that need some attention, but nothing of any importance.
When Jake is delegated to cover a seeming non-event concerning the building of a new university science block, he has to stop himself dropping off to sleep from boredom.
But things don't turn out as Jake expected.
As the workmen are digging the foundations, one of them uncovers an object that looks like an ancient box. When the man opens it, his face and body are attacked by a kind of fungus. The authorities bundle the unfortunate man away. But Jake has seen what he has seen.
On his way back to the office, someone tries to push Jake under a train. Or does he imagine this? Back at the Department of Science, his superiors try to persuade Jake that he is under stress and has imagined the whole business of the fungus attack. Jake turns to his ex-girlfriend for support, and soon the two of them are dragged into something very dangerous.
The great movie director Alfred Hitchcock used to talk about the "McGuffin" when he was discussing the plots to his movie thrillers. Hitchcock's McGuffin was the plot device on which he hung the thrills and suspense.
In The Invisible Assassin, Eldridge has come up with a classic McGuffin. What if governments had, for centuries, been suppressing ancient scientific texts that could at a sweep solve 21st-century social and scientific problems? And what if one of these texts got into the wrong hands? Welcome to the premise of The Invisible Assassin.
Eldridge makes the implausible perfectly plausible as his young hero fights for his life to escape a deadly web of intrigue, conspiracy, danger and murder. Here is a thriller that really thrills and is totally believable.
Just make sure you have a few hours to spare when you start The Invisible Assassin, because you won't put it down once you've started.
John Millen can be contacted at MillenBookshelf@aol.com