The Worst Thing by Aaron Elkins
Genre: Suspense - Mystery
Publisher: The Penguin Group
Publication Date: May 2011
Reviewed by Chrystal Dorsey
The Edgar Award winner and author of the Gideon Oliver mystery series, Aaron Elkins is back with The Worst Thing, an exciting new stand-alone novel of mystery and suspense that illustrates how quickly everything can go wrong when you ask--what's the worst that can happen?
In this novel the author ventures deep into the mind of Bryan Bennett, a designer of hostage negotiation programs, and chronic sufferer of some serious panic attacks. Bryan recalls in detail about being abducted at the age of five and imprisoned in a Turkish dungeon - this resulted in Bryan harboring an unbearable fear of being kidnapped. Although it’s been over thirty years since the kidnapping, Bryan still can’t seem to deal with kidnappers in hostage situations - one would think he'd opt for a different career in a totally different field. Instead he allows his fear of enclosed spaces to control him and refuses to travel outside the safe confines of Redmond, a once relatively sleepy little town outside of Seattle.
But with the help of a therapist, his wife's overwhelming desire to travel - beyond the radius of their own residence, and armed with a life-time supply of Xanax, Bryan agrees to teach a corporate kidnapping seminar in the unusual setting of Iceland.
As the story takes place primary in Iceland the author allows the reader to share in the adventure of a different culture through his descriptive prose, somewhat like a visiting tourist. Learning about Icelandic delicacies - minke whale, smoked puffin, and Icelandic lamb; Getting lost on the Icelandic streets Bolstaoarhio, Braedraborgarstigur and places like Kópavegur; or stumbling over all these names - who but an Icelander could pronounce, including those of some of the characters, e.g., Stig Trygvasson and Dagnyár Eyjólfsdóttir.
The novel is fast-paced and well-plotted as the story moves to a twist-filled ending and the protagonist does confront what he imagines as “the worst thing" when a group of radical soldiers actually take him hostage - and it isn't until nearly the bitter end, that Bryan realizes he just might be his own worst enemy. The Worst Case is an interesting an enjoyable read that has appeal for intermediate and adult readers, alike.
Aaron Elkins is the author of 14 previous Gideon Oliver novels and two stand-alone thrillers. His work has been published in over a dozen languages. Aaron and his wife currently live on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, and have collaborated on other mystery novels and short fiction.
Review copy provided by publisher.