The Copper MacGuffin

Penzey's Spices -- http://www.penzeys.com

So enthralled was I by the exciting conclusion of The Copper Bracelet — an audiobook thriller of 17 chapters written by 16 different authors — that I misjudged the distance to the spice rack (after having added some zip to my Manwich Samwich) and dropped a jar of precious Penzey’s ground cloves. But did I cry over spilled spices? Not a bit. For one thing, it made the kitchen redolent of the mysterious East in which the concluding action is set. For another… well, as I said at the beginning of the paragraph, I was enthralled.

The final chapter of the novelty novel was written by the same thriller writer who got the ball rolling in chapter one, Jeffrey Deaver. His job in the beginning is to set up enough story-stuff — characters, hint of a plot, mysterious clues (e.g., the eponymous jewelry), and a bit of rousing loss-of-head-and-appendages action — to give the rest of the writers (each taking a chapter) something to build on. One by one, the other authors elaborate on his suggestions, adding villains, exploding villains, advancing (sometimes) the story, and wrongfooting (oftentimes) each other.

At last, the virtual stack of coffee-stained manuscripts is shoved back into the hands of the aghast first author. It is then his bounden duty to tie up all the loose ends, and dole appropriate rewards to whichever heroes and bad guys have miraculously survived the gauntlet of his extraordinarily bloodthirsty colleagues. Clever Mr. Deaver does so with the adroitness we’ve all come to expect from him.

The roster of authors, pictured above covered in Penzey’s ground cloves, includes — besides Mr. Deaver — David Hewson, John Gilstrap, Lisa Scottoline (who gets the prize for the most unexpected scene change: a chicken farm in which the hens are named after Gilbert and Sullivan heroines), David Corbett, Jenny Siler, P.J. Parrish (well, that’s two writers actually), Jon Land, Gayle Lynds, Jim Fusilli (also the editor), Joseph Finder, Lee Child, Linda Barnes, David Liss, Brett Battles and James Phelan.

The Copper Bracelet is read to perfection by the awesomely skilled actor Alfred Molina. You may remember him as the love-struck Russian sailor in the movie Letter to Brezhnev (1985), though you don’t.

The protagonist of The Copper Bracelet is the same fellow who did the heavy lifting in the last multiple-author audio-thriller, The Chopin Manuscript: a musicoligist turned hunter of war criminals, Harold Middleton. This time Middleton and his NGO gang of terror-stoppers dash without a pause for breath from the Riviera, to London, to Tampa, to Paris, to Moscow, to Kashmir and to a chicken farm, all the while uncovering a dastardly plot. A plot (and here I’m a bit hazy) either to produce “heavy water” for production of weapons grade plutonium, or to blow up a damn in Kashmir, or to kill Middleton and his pals, or to kill Hillary Clinton, or maybe even kill her boss, or possibly to start a world war, or, alternately, to free Kashmir, or, on the other hand, to put Kashmir in the control of the Chinese, or the Russians, or none of these or all of them. Or something else. Sorry; I was distracted while sweeping up Penzey’s ground cloves during the scene in which the penultimate bad-person delivers his or her explanatory peroration.

Maybe you will pay closer attention and can straighten me out. Go ahead, if you’re so smart: You can obtain the audiobook through iTunes or through Audible.com for a pittance.

Look: an elephant!

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