The List by J. A. Konrath is described on its cover as a “Technothriller.” There are elements of the story that make this term relevant but I feel the story has several more interesting parts. There is the mystery in which a selected number of people are chosen for very gruesome killing. Who is doing the killing and why? We know why the victims were selected. They all have a number tattooed on one of their heels. The numbers range from one to ten and they all come under attack by either Jack the Ripper, Vlad the Impaler or Attila the Hun. The three attackers all have a number tattooed on their heels. For some reason, they are attacking the other seven members of the closed ten-person group although a few others might be killed as collateral damage. The seven numbered main targets don’t have colorful three name labels as do the attackers but their names are equally famous. Einstein, Abe Lincoln, Shakespeare, and Joan of Arc are principal targets.
The thing that leaps out to the reader is the dry humor. Sometimes the humor jumps out in fairly horrible but still amusing puns. Other times the humor appears as criticism of overworked cliches. No matter the form in which it appears, the humor is frequently a laugh-out-loud experience for the reader. As a technothriller, the reader has to suspend belief in the possibility of the science. As a mystery, the reader follows a complex, well-constructed mystery about who will be the next to be killed, the horribly innovative methods that will be used, and the motive for all this mayhem. As a humorous comment on daily routines, the reader will have fun. This is a three-in-one treat.
The later chapters of the book are non-stop action. I was never bored and did not want to put the book down while reading those chapters. I believe it takes a lot of skill to depict so much action without reaching a reader overload. How many times can a character be stabbed, shot, or beaten severely? With Konrath, the number seems to be infinite. I kept waiting for some of the principal characters, in this case Tom and Roy, to run out of body parts that hadn’t been mangled in some creative way. They didn’t. This story might be a tribute to Kevlar.
While the story is fun, the reader must suspend belief in a couple of things, not only the medical fantasy development. The reader must accept the possibility of endless fortuitous coincidences. When I read this I think of the Dan Brown novels or the Bourne Identity chronicles. But it’s all good because of the weird sense of humor on constant display.