Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Perfect 10: Scavenger by David Morrell

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SCAVENGER - David Morell
A Perfect 10
Vanguard Press (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1-59315-441-0
March 2007
Thriller

Manhattan, New York & Wyoming - Present Day

Frank Balenger survived the horrors of the Paragon Hotel and the evil that resided there and saved Amanda Evert, the damsel in distress. Balenger got the girl, but almost lost his sanity. It's months later and Balenger and Amanda are living together and slowly getting over the horror they endured when Balenger receives an invitation to the Manhattan Historical Society to listen to a lecture on time capsules.

Balenger is fascinated by history, so he and Amanda attend the lecture. But something happens during the lecture and the next thing Balenger knows, he wakes up in front of the Paragon Hotel -- the site of his nightmares -- and Amanda is nowhere in sight.

Amanda awakens in an unfamiliar room and realizes she has been abducted. But she's not the only one; four other people are in the house with Amanda, and none of them knows how they got there.

It soon becomes apparent that Amanda and her companions have been chosen to play a deadly game. They are on a scavenger hunt with only the cryptic clues delivered by their unseen host, via individual headsets, and their own ingenuity to help them win the ultimate game of life and death. As the group heads into the wilderness, it's anyone's guess who will survive to win the game.

In his desperate attempt to find Amanda, Balenger is soon drawn into the game. With only forty hours of game time, Balenger must use all his wits and skills to find Amanda, figure out the game, and beat the Game Master before they all die.

SCAVENGER is a chilling novel that pits high tech ingenuity against the human desire to survive. SCAVENGER picks up only months after CREEPERS, the previous novel featuring Frank Balenger, ends. After reading CREEPERS last year, I was looking forward to reading SCAVENGER, although I feared it might not meet my high expectations, but SCAVENGER surpasses anything I could have imagined. Beyond the sheer thrill factor built into each chapter, the characters themselves are a fascinating group. Besides Amanda and Balenger, there is a history professor whose help and knowledge are invaluable to Balenger, and there is the group trapped in the wilderness with Amanda that includes Vi and Derrick, a couple who are expert mountain climbers; Ray, recently released from duty in Iraq; and Bethany, a young woman who survived an accident despite unbeatable odds. Each of the characters is important to the plot and is meticulously created.

Balenger is a man who has been through so much I kept expecting the next straw would break him. But he's stronger than even he imagines, and he never stops, never quits, and refuses to surrender to his fears. Amanda also shines in this novel and is shown to be a survivor equal to Balenger in every way. The Game Master, or villain, is a complicated character. Brilliant, but so twisted he is completely irredeemable.

From the first page to the last hair-raising line, SCAVENGER is a novel that will keep you up late into the night rapidly turning the pages to see who will survive the ultimate reality game. SCAVENGER is a must read for fans of the genre and deserving of an RRT Perfect 10.

Terrie Figueroa

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