Thicker Than Blood: The Complete Andrew Z. Thomas Series by Blake Crouch (Book Review)
Plot: This review contains mini reviews of two separate Andrew Z. Thomas novels, (Desert Places & Locked Doors) as well as the 20,000 word novella, Break You, that is a prequel to the final novel (Stirred), which is not included in this review.
Andrew Z. Thomas is a successful writer of suspense thrillers, living the dream at his lake house in the piedmont of North Carolina. One afternoon in late spring, he receives a bizarre letter that eventually threatens his career, his sanity, and the lives of everyone he loves.
“Greetings. There is a body buried on your property, covered in your blood. The unfortunate young lady’s name is Rita Jones. In her jeans pocket you’ll find a slip of paper with a phone number on it. Call that number. If I have not heard from you by 8:00 p.m., the police will receive an anonymous call. I’ll tell them where Rita Jones is buried on your property, how you killed her, and where the murder weapon can be found in your house.”
My Review: This book actually consists of three different books to a series written by Blake Crouch. Some characters appear in another novels/stories between two authors. From what I gather, this collection of Andrew Z. Thomas novels is a good place to start. So I went with it one day when it was free on Amazon.com. For this review I will do a mini review of each book in the series.
If you are interested in what reading order ALL the books should be read in that have crossovers between authors, check out J.A. Konrath‘s Website FAQ. Please note that the first book listed is actually a prequel that was written as one of the last books, so its up to you if you want to read that one first, I chose not to and will go back and read that in order of release.
I’ve read a few books by Blake Crouch so far – Serial & Run. I love his writing style and his ideas. Run was my first book by him and rather slow for me, but overall it was good. Serial which was a collaboration with another author (Jack Kilborn, who is also known as J.A. Konrath) was great for horror fans like me. You can find reviews for both of those books on SOH.
As for this review, if you haven’t read Desert Places, then you don’t want to read my review for Locked Doors, and if you haven’t read Locked Doors, you don’t want to read my review for Break You. Just a friendly warning about spoilers. If you are looking to get into the series, then just read my review of Desert Places and make a judgment from there whether you want to read the book or not. My overall rating is averaging out what I felt about all three books combined.
For a quick spoiler free breakdown: Really enjoyed the first half of Desert Places. Found Locked Doors a little boring until the end. And Break You (which is a short story running only 12% of this entire collection) was very interesting! I would have liked to see the story go on longer as I loved the concept of it. I’m excited now to venture into the other authors books so I can get the full story of the other serial killers who appeared in “Serial” and the Andrew Z. Thomas novels.
So, now onto the real reviews.
Desert Places: This was the book that caught my attention long ago. I downloaded it for free from Amazon one day and never got around to reading it. Later I found out that there were sequels and so I didn’t want to start reading it until I got the rest of the series. Eventually the three books combined were offered for free, so I downloaded it. Obviously J
This one starts off with a thriller author – Andrew Z. Thomas – getting a letter in the mail from someone claiming there is a dead body buried on his property. He must dig up the body, find the phone number in the pants pocket of the victim and call the number. If he doesn’t the police will be called and he will be framed for the murder.
I wanted to read this because the plot description reminded me of a cat and mouse chase/scavenger hunt sort of book. That’s what I expected and not really what I got. Andrew does meet with the killer and it turns out its his twin brother Orsen. Not spoiling too much there, we find this out rather fast. Orsen is a serial killer and wants to teach his brother the ropes, so he kidnaps him and forces him to murder with him. Orsen takes photographs and videos of Andrew committing murder so that Andrew will not go to the police (or tell anyone else about him) once he is freed. Of course Andrew does get free and enlists the help of a friend to track down and murder his own brother.
The kindle edition of this book (not sure if there is a print version of the complete series) ends on 28%. I read it rather fast for not having much time to read, so I think that establishes that I was sucked into this book.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t very fond of Orsen being Andrews brother. I was expecting sort of a scavenger hunt when I started the book so that’s what I was really looking forward to, and that only lasted until Andrew got captured early on. But even though it wasn’t what I was expecting, I still enjoyed it. What is the fun in the book if you always know what to expect?
The ending was a little far fetched for my liking and some of it was explained at the end of the next book, but I still felt certain aspects of it were just way too implausible.
Locked Doors: This book picks up 7 years after the ending of Desert Places. Andrew is in hiding and Luther is back to killing (if he ever stopped) only this time he’s taking out people that will get Andrews attention, trying to bring Andrew out of hiding. Of course, it works.
Andrew in his research assumes he’s found a place Luther could be hiding and so he travels to a ghost town of an island in search of him.
Meanwhile we have a couple new characters. Violet (Vi) King a young detective who just so happens to be on the case for the recent victims of Luther Kite‘s. And a young aspiring author (who’s name completely escapes me at the moment I’m writing this) who recognizes Andrew one day and decides to follow him everywhere to write a novel about him. Andrew actually ends up taking Vi hostage at one point to help him track down Luther. And of course the author plays a bigger role in the story later. Although, I thought his character was going to do one thing, and it ended up being pretty un predictable to me.
Instead all three of them get caught by Luther AND his crazy serial killer parents. Seems a little odd to me that Orsen would have kidnapped Luther years before to turn him into a serial killer when he apparently already had serial killer parents. Which leads to my next point, of how silly was it that the parents were rushing to make their very own electric chair to kill their captives even though they knew they had to leave ASAP as the police were on their way. It just seemed silly to me.
Quite frankly I didn’t care much for “Locked Doors”. It was pretty boring until Andrew captured Vi and forced her to go to the island with him.
I just wasn’t invested that much in this one. I found it hard to pick up and continue reading once I put down. But by the end I really felt for the characters and wanted them to survive and pushed on to the end.
For those curious, on the kindle version it ends at 62%. I’m always curious about these sort of things, especially for this book since it was three books in one and I couldn’t find these details anywhere. It drove me bonkers when I was trying to find out where book three ended since there are alternate endings for the books included, I assumed the 3rd story wasn’t all that long.
Break You: This is a very short (20,000 words, or 12%) story. From what I’ve read it is a prequel to the final story (Stirred) about Andrew Thomas. Stirred is also the final book to the Jack Daniels series by Jack Kilborn/J.A. Konrath. So for me, I’d like to go back and read that series before picking up Stirred.
Anyhow, this story revolves around Andrew and Vi living together raising her son in hiding. Quite frankly I don’t get why Vi felt the need to run off with Andrew at the end of Locked Doors. But anyhow, her son gets kidnapped by Luther and then they both get captured and Luther plays with them. Forcing Vi to murder for the safety of Andrew and her son. Eventually Andrew and Vi are both strapped to a chair and must basically hurt one another until death. Or rather, until Andrew convinces Luther that he’s just as nuts as him and releases him.
While I loved the concept in this, making Vi murder for the safety of her child and Andrew, and vise versa sort of. I didn’t like the ending. For those that don’t care to be spoiled I will gladly go into details:
Overall: I enjoyed the series. Some parts more then others, the 2nd book dragged a little but picked up and got good. I definitely liked it enough to go and read all the other stories that can intertwine with Andrew, Luther and Vi. Ratings averaged out this gets a 3.6 from me.