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child continued

"At that exact moment less than a hundred and thirty miles away in a warehouse behind Baltimore’s Inner Harbor cash was finally exchanged for two weapons and matching ammunition. A lot of cash. Good weapons. Special ammunition. The planning for the second attempt had started with an objective analysis of the first attempt’s failure. As realistic professionals they were reluctant to blame the whole debacle on inadequate hardware, but they agreed that better firepower couldn’t hurt. So they had researched their needs and located a supplier. He had what they wanted. The price was right. They negotiated a guarantee. It was their usual type of arrangement. They told the guy that if there was a problem with the merchandise they would come back and shoot him through the spinal cord, low down, put him in a wheelchair."

Generally, the most important ingredient for success, at least in the mass-market serial thriller subgenre, is that the author get out of his own way. Which Child for the most part does. But this bit — one of the few passages not from the perspective of the hero — shows some moves. There are the wooden-but-effective ones, like the amplification of the first sentence (“Good weapons. Special ammunition.”). But there is also the movement between the need-to-know general, where only the basic outlines of actions and people are sketched out, and the highly specific, in the case of the threat. The effect is one of starting with focus and drifting out of it, before snapping into a sudden sharp focus on the last sentence. And that makes this a better paragraph than one might expect if one just judges the book by its cover.



May 22, 2010, 8:20am   Comments