Philip Fitzgerald AKA Philippe Gonzalez is meant to be dead– killed by crime boss Sylvester Martin. Instead, he is hiding out and building a new life in Belize. When Philippe discovers the death of his son, Pasqual, he becomes intent on avenging his murder with the help of an old ally, Jimmy the Banker. At the top of his hit list are Angelina, Chris and Kurt, and they’re all in grave danger. But the indomitable Captain Sinclair is hot on Philippe’s heels. Now they are embroiled in a cat and mouse chase, but who is the cat and who is the mouse?
‘PHILIPPE’ by Jack Petersen moves at a rocket’s pace, and we are thrown into the narrative immediately as we are introduced to a smorgasbord of characters and storylines in quick succession. Initially, I found it a little difficult to keep track of the sheer amount of names particularly as some of them are aliases, and this felt quite overwhelming. However, after a couple of chapters, I had gotten into the swing of things and I was fully immersed in the world Petersen has created. The book has a complex narrative involving classic themes of love, loyalty, betrayal and corruption. The writing is crammed full of criminological detail from toxicology to DNA and we are flung into a gritty criminal underworld, occupied by crooked cops and renegade felons. Petersen has portrayed all of this incredibly realistically and the content seems well researched which made me feel like I was inhabiting a fully-realized world.
The characters are well-drawn and multifarious. Like any good crime novel, the narrative is littered with unsavoury characters, but Petersen ensures that we understand their motivations, allowing the reader to develop empathetic connections with even the most odious of characters. The main protagonists are neither wholly flawed nor wholly virtuous, and through them, we learn that nothing in this world is black and white.
‘PHILIPPE’ is written using multiple narratives and Petersen weaves us in and out of the differing point of views seamlessly. The narratives are all written in first person so we get an insight into each of the main protagonists’ internal thoughts and feelings, and the more peripheral characters, Chris and Kurt, are fleshed out. Philippe’s voice is particularly fascinating due to the way that he justifies his crimes. Although this is quite an intricate way of writing which could seem convoluted, the point of view only switches at chapter breaks, and all of the characters have very distinctive voices. I was also captivated by the dialogue which is natural and flows nicely.
Although there are some violent scenes (to be expected in this genre!), they are never gratuitous or titillating. The book possesses suspense and twists galore, and the final showdown makes for a nail-biting conclusion. This is a great addition to the crime/thriller genre–it offers an intricate and multi-faceted story, but also a fun and gripping ride that will have you eager to keep turning the pages until the very last.
Pages: 279 | ASIN: B06XG9XWWD
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The Birthday Club is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a thriller, suspense, and mystery as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
In my view, fiction is rarely of one genre or another but contain elements of many. I think it is the balance that counts. If a bit of suspense is needed at one point to drive home the plot of the mystery then why not? In fact, I’m not convinced that genres such as mystery and suspense can be separated. Does one not contain some of the other? As for how it happens, in my case it is my intent to write fiction from multiple points of view, to present as rounded a picture of the “operating” environment as possible, and to-most of all-keep it interesting. I’m not sure that I ever, while writing, classify what I am doing as being mysterious or suspenseful, or even thrilling. Even though it is my desire that my writing provides all three experiences to the reader.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
That is a difficult question to answer. Getting at it in reverse fashion the characters who offered a more concise, non-emotional point of view were the most difficult simply because a lot of thought had to go into keeping the story line rational yet “humanly” interesting. I had a lot of fun with Sylvester Martin because rationality wasn’t among the most important of his characteristics, but I think the “favorite” title must be split between Chris and Angelina. They represent opposite poles in a sense: One closed and taciturn the other open and vulnerable.
There are a lot of great twists in this novel that I rarely saw coming. Did you plan your novel or did the twists come as you were writing?
I’ve tried writing to an outline on several occasions. The only successful attempt was writing my Master’s thesis in Geology; where not following an outline would have been a disaster. While writing fiction I once made it through a chapter and a half on my outline before I trashed the thing. Other attempts have not been nearly so successful. Yes writing without formal pre-planning (we all think of ideas at night that are incorporated in the next day’s effort) can lead to a quagmire–been there and sunk up to my nose–but it generally works for me. Even if it means I have to go back and totally revise three-quarters of a manuscript to incorporate a new idea.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Philippe, sequel to The Birthday Club, was finished earlier this year, and is available in both e-book and paperback formats on Amazon and as an e-book on Smashwords. I am now contemplating a third in the series, but have not yet made a start with a pen.
When you’re in high school nothing ever seems important about the far distant future. Like five years down the road. Who cares? You’ve got enough to worry about. So, should we add a new member to the group? Not a problem, even if he’s a little strange. See something bad happen in the neighborhood? So what? It happened to someone else’s dog.
After graduation, things change of course. Five years doesn’t seem so far down the road anymore. So you kind of get involved in your own stuff and your high school buddies have their own lives to live anyway. Most of those things that happened back in high school just aren’t important. Maybe.
Maybe not. Like that fender bender you witnessed with all your friends. The one that will turn out to be a whole lot more important than even Dee Dee’s owner thought at the time. Think about it, that little incident on Fuller Street might be just the thing to make your name in the Criminal Investigation Seminar this semester. Who would care if what really happened then became known? It’s ancient history, right?
Posted in Interviews
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The Birthday Club, by Jack Petersen, follows the lives of four high school friends bound together by a shared birthday. Angelina, Chris, Kurt, and Billy form a bond during their sophomore year and remain a tight foursome, all but shunning the world around them for three years. When their tight-knit cluster is infiltrated by Fred during their junior year of high school, little things begin to set the stage for large-scale changes in the lives of all five young people. Upon graduation, the members of the Birthday Club go their separate ways only to find themselves forever bound by one of its member’s desperate choices.
Petersen could not have chosen a more misleading title for this touching thriller. Now that I have finished, I am not sure I remember many of my original predictions about the plot. I do know that I had envisioned a much more benign and almost juvenile story line. Nothing could be further from the truth. Petersen does an excellent job of setting the background for each of his characters and builds steadily and purposefully toward a surprising climax.
I am a fan of Harlan Coben and have been for many years. Jack Petersen’s, The Birthday Club, rivals the intricate plots woven by Coben and features characters for which the reader will root. Petersen, like Coben, keeps the reader guessing, feeding only the most minute hints of what is to come. This was truly a “couldn’t put it down” read for me.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Petersen’s writing style is his take on point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed the shifts in perspectives among his cast of characters. The author incorporates something not often seen in thrillers–the viewpoint of the antagonist. Readers are treated to a look inside the mind of Petersen’s villain and afforded the opportunity to make judgements from, literally, all sides. This 360° rotation between the main and supporting characters’ perspectives throughout the book is unique, refreshing, and appreciated.
Without giving away too much regarding the book’s conclusion, I will say that the ending was poignant and, in my opinion, leaves room for more books featuring Petersen’s Birthday Club cast. I can easily picture future plot lines growing from the closing scene. From beginning to end, the members of the club touched my heart and kept me guessing. (I wasn’t always right, and I loved that fact.)
Without hesitation, I am giving Jack Petersen’s, The Birthday Club, a solid 5 out of 5 stars. Angelina, Chris, Kurt, and Billy are a winning combination from the moment they meet and discover their September 14th connection to the book’s bitter end. I have not read a book so thoughtfully written and so carefully constructed to give each character a fair shot at telling his or her story. Petersen has set forth a group of personalities, who as a foursome, are a force with which to be reckoned. From Chris, the quiet one, to Angelina, the friend and object of each boy’s blooming love, Petersen has a home run on his hands. The Birthday Club is a mystery/thriller not to be missed.
Pages: 231 | ASIN: B01GDGJ7EE
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