As far as writing novels are concerned, one genre that is never behind the eight ball is the thriller. It is probably the most popular of all genres, because who doesn’t love a thrill? Whether its James Patterson’s nail-biters or Michael Connelly’s lurking killers, the thriller genre always lives up to its expectations and gives the reader a terrific reading expectation. As I moved along on the particular side of the library, one of the newer authors I noted was Karen Rose, and the name of the book was Count To Ten. As always, I skimmed through the blurb, which spoke of arson and murder. Always eager to read works by new authors, I decided to give it a go.
The book opens with an unnamed criminal who sets fire to a house, relishing the flames devouring the structure of the house as it crumbles to nothing. The reader is made to revel at the descriptions of the killer’s joy at seeing the house go down, and they are made to understand the cold, calculating nature of the killer. Similar to a number of books, Count To Ten has two protagonists – Arson Investigator Reed Solliday and Homicide Detective Mia Mitchell. Usually, fires are handled by the fire department, which brings Officer Solliday to the scene. But a quick examination of the scene brings to harsh light a dead body, due to which Homicide is called into play and sees Reed unwillingly partnered with Mia Mitchell.
Detective Mitchell herself is just back from a harrowing experience of being shot by a criminal and is struggling with the trauma of seeing her last partner in the hospital. With the arrival of Reed, who patronizes her at first, she looks to solve the arson-murder as soon as possible and get back at the criminal who shot her. But the arsonist is in no mood to stop at one, as he hunts for the people who made his life hell, determined to make them go down in flames – literally. The story oscillates between three places – the viewpoints of Reed and Mia as they investigate the scene, the viewpoint of the killer scouting his targets, and the viewpoint of Brooke Adler, the English teacher at a juvenile center who believes one of her students is not as innocent as he looks.
Count To Ten is excellent as describing the crime scenes, which the help the reader understand the true nature of a fire. The author has done good research on the nature of fuel and accelerants as she successfully explains the strength and devastating nature of a fire. The book starts out with arson but soon moves on to darker topics, which is best suited for mature audiences. The characters themselves are well described – with clever but sharp Mia Mitchell one side and suave but firm Reed Solliday on the other. Their back stories are also explained in detail, as both of them have suffered losses which they think are irreplaceable. But the character who leaves the most vivid impact on the reader is no doubt the killer himself. Merciless and single-minded, he moves swiftly and strikes hard, never leaving evidence behind. His ruthless attitude makes him a force to be reckoned with, as he taunts the police who always seem to be one step behind him.
The book is well-written with occasional wit slipped in between the lines. One of the most harrowing parts of the book is the center for criminals under eighteen years of age, which is described perfectly. The book also touches on the lives of children in orphanages and foster homes, which is an important backstory with respect to the killer’s motives. Such stories of the children and the events they face are shocking, but it serves the purpose as the reader understands where the killer’s drive comes from. But the reader never sympathizes with the killer, which is an indication of his crimes.
The book does justice to the title, whose meaning is finally explained in the end. As a thriller, there are some dull moments, but the overall pace of the book is terrific as it keeps the reader hooked. Count To Ten is a crisp thriller which takes on the world of an arsonist- serial killers hunted by a formidable duo who don’t quite hit it off at first but become unstoppable as the book goes on. Pacy and exciting, Count To Ten is a must-read for the New Year.