Saturday, March 26, 2016


YOU'RE NEXT by Gregg Hurwitz (Sphere, 2011)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Mike is a family man with an eco-friendly construction business who starts receiving terrifying threats related to a childhood he knows nothing about. The police themselves are more interested in Mike's past than the threats, so he turns to a dangerous friend for help. 

With his recent Orphan X novel, Gregg Hurwitz seems to have circled back towards his early authorial days penning high octane thrillers populated by spies and supercops. But for a period a few years ago the Shakespearean scholar and graphic novelist rivalled the likes of Linwood Barclay and Harlan Coben at the pinnacle of 'suburban noir'.

You're Next is a great example of Hurwitz's considerable talent for creating pulse-pounding novels with character, centred on ordinary people who suddenly find themselves  under threat from powerful and mysterious forces.

In You’re Next, developer Mike Wingate has made a nice life for himself and his wife and daughter. He’s about to cash a big paycheck on a multi-year project, and is being honoured by the Governor for his environmental building practices. He’s come a long way since being abandoned at a playground as a four year-old. But then things start going wrong. “I know you, don’t I?” says a crippled stranger at a party. Then come the threats, then attacks. Mike and his family aren’t safe anywhere. But how can he protect them when he doesn’t even know why his unknown enemies are after them?

Could it related to a childhood he doesn't even remember? When Mike goes to the police, they seem much more interested in his past that the danger his family might face. So Mike turns to the only man who can help - Shep, a dangerous individual he's known since growing up in foster care. Can the pair of them get to the bottom of the sinister threats, before Mike and his family become victims?

Let's be honest: the words gripping, compelling, and pulse-pounding are often loosely thrown around in book reviews, so much so that they can lose their meaning and impact. But Hurwitz's storytelling epitomises such ideas. I genuinely found it hard to put this book down, snatching it back up when on coffee breaks at work or between tasks, devouring it in less than a day, despite other commitments.

There is a lot of good crime writing out there, that flows well, that sucks you in as a reader so you want to know what happens next. But Hurwitz shows in You're Next that he's on that higher level, sprinkling a little magic that ramps things up a notch emotionally and character-wise while still being polished and believable story-wise. I didn't just sympathise with his characters, I literally ‘felt’ the tension, and got a noticeable physical reaction - not just an intellectual one or the idea of a feeling in my head - as Mike and his family dealt with the lurking dangers and unseen forces.

Overall, You're Next is a pressure-packed thriller that shows Hurwitz is a true master when it comes to crafting tension and energy, whether he's writing about superheroes and super-cops fighting high-stakes battles or ordinary family men under extreme pressure, facing the worst day of their lives.

I read and really enjoyed this book when it was originally released in 2011. At the time I wrote a newspaper feature on Hurwitz for the New Zealand Herald, as well as a shorter review for other magazines and newspapers in Australia and New Zealand. This is an extended review based upon my notes from the time and further thoughts. 

Craig Sisterson is a journalist from New Zealand who writes for magazines and newspapers in several countries. He has interviewed more than 140 crime writers, discussed crime fiction at literary festivals and on radio, and is the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. Follow him on Twitter: @craigsisterson 

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