Redefining the Thriller
I was very surprised to find a few things in this novel which I hadn't experienced in thrillers before it. Some were good, some not so good, but they all contributed to Knapp's style. One surprise was the voice of the protagonist Daniel Samsel. Daniel has to be the coolest thief I've ever encountered in fiction or reality. He's not cool in the Sammy Davis, Jr. in the original Ocean's Eleven way. He's cool in a way that's the opposite of Robert Langdon of Dan Brown's suspense/thriller The Da Vinci Code. Whereas Langdon is nervous and antsy, always expecting death and danger is imminent, Danny Samsel doesn't expect death and danger, he stares it in the face. The difference beteen Danny staring death in the face and a regular Jo Blo is that Danny doesn't fear it. He's able to rationalize, even as a lunatic Interpol agent's goons beat everything but the snot out of Danny. He's that kind of cool. At first it was a little unnerving to see Danny nod off after narrowly escaping a high-speed chase, but as I read further, something stuck in my mind: Danny is able to relax under pressure, because that's the way of a thief. You can't disarm an alarm with quivering fingers. Good thing Danny never quivers.
Another surprising tidbit about this novel is the vast amount of information that pours from the pages from the moment the book is opened. Knapp has clearly done his research, and mine as well. It is that singular note that allows the reader to appreciate traveling with Danny through the greater part of Europe as he plots a heist of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum. The history lessons we receive never feel like lessons. They only feel like a passion that the protagonist is sharing with the us, and I believe that is because of the narrative anti-thriller style that the author used.
By anti-thriller, I mean that the story wasn't written in the choppy, anxious sentences that so often accompany thrillers. It has a calm tone which directly reflects the protagonist. However interesting the change is, there are pros and cons to this style of writing. One pro is that the story as a whole acted as a reflection of Danny's character, giving the reader a clearer understanding of the protagonist than a blazon or general description ever could. The con to this style of writing is that the story's pacing was lost in the shuffle of words at times. There were moments when I held my breath, like when Danny described his nightmares, but there were also moments that I wish would have captivated me more by a stronger usage of pacing. The story stands on its own without the choppy phrases, one line paragraphs, and rushed dialog, but I was aware of the absence.
Knapp has a way with words. The novel is so filled with rich description that the reader could actually be there, walking along the black sand beaches. The characters are so well described that you could easily pick them out of a line-up after reading their blazons: "Black hair, laced heavily with gray, fell from the sides grazing his shoulders. His nutmeg skin glistened with sweat as he hoed the chocolate-colored earth around each gnarled vine. The ground was empty of weeds, the vines exploding in a riot of green." The book is filled with truly inventive lines that the reader can savor on his tongue like this one: "The hands of the clock raced about its face like something chased by the Devil himself." This particular line is one of the ways Knapp showed anxiety in Danny without making Danny lose his cool.
And then there's the back-story, the romance, and the tales of friendship and sacrifice woven in between the gun-fights and high-speed chases. What really makes Stealing the Marbles the anti-thriller is that it has a soul. It keeps you guessing, makes you root for the "bad guy", and gives you some fun characters with solid voices, but the real reason you'll like Stealing the Marbles is because of its heart and its soul.
Links to buy the book:
Link to Chapter One: http://www.ejknapp.com/stealing-the-marbles/stealing-the-marbles-chapter-1/
Knapp's publishing company- Rebel ePublishers: http://www.rebelepublishers.com/?Task=system&CategoryID=30235&HeadingText=Stealing+the+Marbles
I hope you've enjoyed today's review, and I hope you'll support this new star!
Until the next scene,