I came to the book through a somewhat odd set of circumstances. I saw a tweet about a book that had a 2000% increase on Amazon. So I followed a link in that tweet to a blog. The blog mentioned the review, about how the author noted he had initial good sales in the first month, but once summer started he was down to about ten books a something. I can't recall if it was 10 a day, or week. Can't be month as the book came out in May, and this is June. Right, so I followed a link there to the actual review. The review was just a paragraph if I recall correctly. Nothing I would think would lead to a 2000% increase in sales on Amazon. So I went back to the previous blog and followed a link there to Amazon. Bunch of five star rated reviews. Description I don't remember if I read. So I tried the sample. Four chapters later I figured I'd pay the $0.99 to see how the book unfolded. Though The sample had one or two more chapters from there.
The story begins with a man named John Brighton deciding to follow his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend. He believes that Frank, the boyfriend, is cheating on Michelle, John's ex. This is based on John spotting Frank having coffee with some woman. So this mild-mannered teacher followed Frank to a train station in Jersey City. Follows him around a building. Starts to follow him towards people wearing trench coats. Trench coats open fire. Frank fires back. Quite accurately. By this time Frank and John are back around the corner with Frank leaning out shooting. John keeps trying to walk towards Frank. Frank keeps shooting, and pushing John away.
They flee onto a train. Frank orders the conductor to go. The train begins to move. Then stops after the emergency brake is pulled. Can't restart for about twenty minutes. Another bad guy boards. Fight. Death of bad guy, assumed bad guy. All this description is leading up to John and Frank exiting the train at a different train station and John getting his picture taken by a camera phone. Having the picture splashed all over the TV, and having the news and police believing that John is either the killer, or an accomplice. All of this occurs in the first four chapters.
The characters are both annoying and interesting. It seems most stories where a person finds themselves in a strange situation find that person reacting like John McClane on Die Hard. Stepping forward, maybe making wise-cracks, but however they do it, they step forward and get the job done. John (of this book not of Die Hard), finding himself in this unexpected situation, basically comes inches from falling apart. Curling into a ball. Shaking, whimpering, following Frank when Frank pushes him in a certain direction, later following another character when she comes along. He doesn't suddenly find time slow down, he doesn't suddenly find himself, a teacher, tackling and defeating many combat trained attackers. Instead he is a ball of nerves, whimpering. Eventually he starts moving under his own momentum, but he does not follow the normal type of characterization for his type of character in this type of book.
Oh, I mentioned the characters were both annoying and interesting. Interesting because they are not stereotypes lifted from other stories. Annoying because the personalities are annoying. I can't stand Michelle, the ex-girlfriend. Frank seems caught between flat and something more than flat character.
A fast-paced thriller is supposed to be just that, fast-paced, page turning quickly, must see what happens next. This book had that for the most part. Got me through four chapters of the sample quite quickly. Got me to about chapter 13 before I had to put the book down to do other things. And then . . . well, a fast-paced thriller should cause me to quickly get back to it, despite having to take a break for life functions. Yet, I finished another book before I got back to Witness to Death. Then I read the first hundred pages of a new book before finally returning to and finishing Witness to Death. Chapter 13 through 28 pulsed along, my attention drawn back into it before again needing to take a break from it. I found after I returned to it that it, ironically, somewhat picked up again right at that point.