cover image DERAILED


James Siegel, . . Warner, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-446-53158-0

There's an extraordinary amount of hype attached to this thriller, from a rave letter in the galley by Warner head Laurence J. Kirshbaum to an announced ad/ promo campaign of $500,000 and enthusiastic blurbs from Christopher Reich and, notably, James Patterson. The buzz is warranted: this story of a middle-class professional whose life goes incredibly, criminally awry is one of the most exciting thrillers in years. And why is a blurb from James Patterson notable? Because Siegel (Epitaph) seems to have learned at his feet. Like Patterson, Siegel is an ad man (a creative director at BBDO; and he, like Patterson, has created TV spots for his book) who mixes first- and third-person narration and knows how to reduce a thriller to its essence. Protagonist Charles Schine is also a Manhattan ad man, married, with a diabetic teen daughter; troubles at home and at work lead him to fall in lust with a sexy younger woman he meets on his commuter train, and finally to a hotel assignation that goes terribly wrong when an armed man bursts in, beats Charles and rapes his date, then blackmails Charles for a staggering amount of money. Charles tries to fight the blackmail by hiring muscle, a disastrous move that gets him into potentially dire legal trouble, as does his agreeing to participate in a company scam in a desperate bid to make back some of the blackmail money—and all that just takes readers into the middle of this terrific yarn, which will blindside them again and again with shocking but plausible twists. With its clean prose, high-velocity plotting and just the right amount of emotional shading darkening its sharply drawn characters, this novel is the bomb. (Feb. 19)

Forecast:It's extremely tough for any author to crack bestseller lists for the first time, but with the Warner marketing machine plus the hot word-of-mouth this novel will generate, Siegel is a good bet to do it with this title.