Sunday, 29 September 2013

Review: 21 Hours

21 Hours by Dustin Stevens

The synopsis can be found here on GoodReads. I suggest reading it before this review.

4 / 5 Stars
The writing style and characters really make this book enjoyable. I've never read a book that was primarily a thriller, so this was a first for me. I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It's a bit dark, but there's nothing too heavy, explicit or disturbing contained in this book.

First Impression

Neither the title or the cover give much away about this book. I personally don't associate much with 21 hours, perhaps if it was called 48 hours then I would associate it with child kidnapping on first sight. Meanwhile the cover is fairly ambiguous - a bridge over water with a city background. Nothing much there to hint at the contents of the book besides the fact that there will be some scenes in the city.

On the other hand the synopsis is very informative. I like that. It tells me what's going to on and pretty much lays out the plot. While I felt indifferent to the title and book cover, I knew I wanted to read this book when I read the synopsis. That might have something to do with my love for CSI and true life crimes.


This is marketed as a thriller and yes, it certainly ticks that box. It's exciting, crime related, has good fight scenes and even some gun action. It's a good read for those who like crime - though most of the book is not told from the point of view of professional crime investigators (if that's your preference).


Stevens' has a refreshing, no-frills writing style. There are no wasted words, no melodramatic description and no boring fluff to wade through. Everything written adds to the plot or describes the scene. The sentences are varied and so is the language (though there is some repetition, such as the metallic taste of blood). Despite this, I found it pretty easy to read and follow, even when I was tired.


The main character is O and we follow him on his dangerous journey to save his niece, Annie. At first we're told he's an ex-convict so we imagine he's a big, tough man. No doubt he will breeze through all the obstacles standing in his way, right? Wrong. This book doesn't kid itself with Hollywood conveniences. There's no perfect shots or convenient leads. O is forced into an underworld that pushes him to the edge of his physical limits. Beaten, battered and bloodied, O will not stop until he has Annie safe and sound. His anger and his fear make him a realistic character. All these qualities make it easy to become drawn into this thrilling story.

Other characters involve Lex. Stevens makes her emotions transparent. We watch as she falls apart as the chances of finding her daughter diminish. We even see her at breaking point. This isn't a one track thriller where only our tough hero and unfortunate victim matter. We have the distressed mother, the hospitalised boyfriend, even in-laws who are far from friendly and outsiders who play important roles in the story despite their minor parts.

The bad characters in this book are colourful - to say the least! They all have their own quirks and set up. Stevens' describes each criminal's lair well, allowing us to really be in the scene and also implying the nature of each baddie.


I've watched enough CSI to have some idea of how the book would go, but I'll be honest and say it didn't really follow the plan I had in my head. I predicted lots of police involvement, but for the most part O is alone. I think this makes the book more thrilling because he has no one to rely on. There's no back up. There's no lab, IT expert or combat trained partner. Just one man whose only qualifications are working on a ranch and a stint behind bars.

I liked the beginning. It was amusing and, for a moment, I thought his time at the ranch would last longer, just to get the reader comfortable and well acquainted with the character. Instead the scene is interrupted with a phone call. At first it didn't seem like a big event, but as Steven elaborates it's clear to see something is seriously wrong.

I thought that Stevens would end the book at finding Annie. What I mean by this is that they embrace (or something similar) and that's it. Rather than leave us at this point - where further misfortune could follow - Stevens extends the end of the book. He ties up the story in a fulfilling way by going some time into the future and letting us know that everything is going well for the once torn family (and hinting at some relationship between O and Watts - did anyone not see the insinuation coming?).

I felt like Stevens' had a real grip on where the story was going. There was no painful slowness or pauses. Every sentence helped keep a good pace which kept me interested. Obviously, as this book is told from the first person perspective of O, we don't get a broad overview of everything. We don't get into the minds of the criminals or what happened to the kidnapped children while they were missing. Lots of characters enter to serve their part and then are brushed aside. Some readers might not like this, but it makes perfect sense. The lens through which we experience this story is O's, he's a man who only cares about finding his niece and is aware of the limited time frame. Would he really waste time reflecting on people that have nothing to do with the task at hand?

Likes & Dislikes

+ Straight forward, yet detailed writing style.
+ Colourful and emotive characters.
+ A well deserved and satisfying happy ending.

- O waits till the last moment to tell Watts about the warehouses on the docks - if he told her sooner then he could have had much needed back up (so it seems silly he didn't).
- Where there should be a double 'l' in words, the second 'l' is magically missing (e.g. 'hell' appears as 'hel').
- The formatting of the book is really off. The page numbers are in with the book text and the lines are artificially broken so it can make it visually distracting.


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