Title: The Worst Thing
Author: Aaron Elkins
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Bryan Bennett designs hostage negotiation plans for a living, but he refuses to have anything to do with these difficult situations. He was kidnapped as a boy, and still suffers from brutal panic attacks, but it wasn’t until a hostage negotiation went wrong a few years ago that he stopped working as a negotiator. Now, he works behind the scenes. When he’s asked to go to Iceland to deliver an in-person seminar on how to avoid being kidnapped, Bryan can’t say no, but what he doesn’t realize is that his worst fears are about to come true all over again.
The Worst Thing is a quiet novel that packs a punch. The storyline moves at a brisk but easy pace. For much of the novel, it doesn’t appear as if anything big is going to happen; it seems to deal more with Bryan’s personal demons than with an explosive storyline. All of a sudden, though, everything changes and the reader (and Bryan) are thrust into an entirely new situation. The book completely shifts direction, but it still maintains its well-plotted and thoughtful nature.
Readers will definitely feel for Bryan in The Worst Thing. He endured a horrific kidnapping ordeal as a child, and he still has crippling panic attacks because of it. One thing Elkins does incredibly well is put the reader inside the mind of someone in the midst of a panic attack. Bennett says that if you haven’t had a panic attack, it’s extremely difficult to imagine what they’re like, yet Elkins’ vivid descriptions help the reader to visualize them. Readers will feel their own hearts pounding along with Bennett’s and will sense the complete surrender, the surety that this attack will never end. It’s incredibly well done.
Elkins also takes the reader into the tactics behind hostage negotiations in The Worst Thing, and they’re very interesting to read about. What’s more, he populates the novel with well-drawn, three-dimensional characters. The only real flaw in the book is the twist at the very end; it’s wildly unpredictable, but it also feels a bit like a gimmick. It’s difficult to believe and entirely too strange. Still, overall, The Worst Thing is enjoyable, and while it’s not a book that will stick with you for a long time, it’s certainly fun while you’re reading it.