A Book Spy Review: ‘MatchUp’ Edited By Lee Child

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In the International Thriller Writers’ latest anthology of short stories, some of the most famous authors working today have teamed up to mix some of the genre’s most well-known characters.

Following FaceOff (edited by David Baldacci), where twenty-three authors teamed up to write original short stories that featured their series’ characters working together, MatchUp offers a juicy twist by having male and female authors write together.

Kicking things off are C.J. Box and Sandra Brown’s Honor &…, which combines Box’s fan-favorite Wyoming game warden, Joe Pickett, and Brown’s Lee Coburn. As Lee Child–who, apart from partnering with Kathy Reichs on his own short story, also writes introductions to each story–explains, Brown’s 2011 novel, Lethal, ends with Coburn touching down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Leaving his district of Saddle String, Joe lends a hand in Teton County when the local game warden needs help checking out some elk hunting camps. It doesn’t take long for Joe to cross paths with Coburn, and while their initial meeting isn’t exactly friendly, the two end up working together in order to stay alive once bad guys show up looking for trouble.

While longtime fans of Box will find it a tad odd to see Joe constantly referred to as “Pickett” instead of Joe, like in the novels, Honor &… is a fun, action-packed short story that sets the right tone to kick things off.

Up next is the Val McDermid and Peter James collaboration, Footloose, which is about a foot-fetish reflexologist who runs into a pair of feet he wants to keep for himself.  The two crime writers deliver an entertaining story, which is followed up by one of the collection’s best short stories–Lee Child and Kathy Reichs’ Faking a Murderer.

Reichs’ forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan, and Child’s hard-hitting nomad, Jack Reacher, both got their starts in 1997. So what happens when two of the genre’s most well-known authors team up to combine such legendary characters? A whole lot of awesome, that’s what. Reichs’ straightforward approach is a direct contrast to Child’s wandering style, making their collaboration a lot of fun for their fans.

Steve Berry and Diana Gabaldon’s Past Prologue hits all the right notes. Berry, known for being a huge history buff, and Gabaldon, a scientist with four degrees (including a Ph.D. in behavioral ecology), each bring plenty of expertise to the table. Their short story is the only one written in first person, and the two found a really great way to side-step the fact that Gabaldon’s characters are set in the past while Berry’s thrillers are set in the modern day.

Gayle Lynds and David Morrell’s Rambo on Their Minds may prove to be the best and most memorable collaboration of all. Together they deliver a suspense-filled, action-packed hit that will, as the title indicates, indeed leave you thinking about Rambo.

Lynds and Morrell are the original co-founders of the International Thriller Writers, so their working together has been long overdue. For this story, Lynds brings back Liz Sansborough, who appeared in her first novel, Masquerade, back in 1996. To work in Rambo, the pair came up with a genius way to make the whole story possible, while mixing in Lynds’ classic style of espionage and Morrell’s trademark action.

Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta’s Short Story is, ironically, the longest story in this anthology. It’s also unique in that Slaughter decided to really add to and develop her character, Jeffrey Tolliver, revealing things about him that readers previously hadn’t known. Koryta, for the first time, wrote about Joe Pritchard in third person. Together, their story is fun and well-written, and their fans will absolutely love this collaboration.

Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross combined to write Dig Here, which teams up Harper Connelly and Ty Hauck. Dig Here is one of the only stories in this anthology that has true supernatural elements, as Harris’ Connelly possesses the power to locate dead bodies and visualize their final memories. While very different writers, Gross and Harris find enough common ground to make this story work, providing more than a few thrills along the way.

Lisa Jackson and John Sandford, both seasoned veterans, put Regan Pescoli and Virgil Flowers together in Deserves to be Dead. Flowers, a Minnesota-based detective, takes a fishing trip out to Montana, which is where Pescoli is based. It doesn’t take long for this writing duo to hit their stride, putting out an engaging short story that fans will undoubtedly enjoy.

Lara Adrian and Christopher Rice’s Midnight Flame is compelling and fast-paced. J.A. Jance and Eric Van Lustbader’s Taking the Veil is solid fun. And then there’s Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille’s Getaway, which, without giving anything away, is terrific.

Scottoline’s Philadelphia-based lawyer, Bennie Rosato, and DeMille’s ex-cop, John Corey, couldn’t be more different–which is why they work so well together. Both authors are masters of their craft, and know what fans are looking for in these types of collaboration projects. They give readers what they want, providing one of the most memorable short stories of the bunch.

Even if you’ve never read short stories before, MatchUp is a must-read for fans of the thriller genre. Very rarely does this kind of star power assemble for one anthology, and each story delivers the goods, making sure readers never feel cheated.

While fans will especially enjoy the collaborations featuring their favorite authors, most readers will walk away dying to pick up more books from all the new characters they’ll come to love while reading through MatchUp.

Book Details

Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501141597
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: June 13th, 2017 (Order Now!)

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