Book: “The Blonde,” by Duane Swierczynski

Duane Swierczynski has quite an imagination. His books are unusual, and unpredictable. Such was the case with “The Blonde” (2007).

I previously read two of his other books, “The Wheelman” from 2006 and “Severance Package” from 2008.” “The Blonde” would be in the same league as “Severance Package,” both of them dealing an ordinary guy caught up in the machinations of a super-secret government agency which specializes in assassinations. But whereas “Severance Package” takes place in one building during a span of a couple hours, “The Blonde” ranges from Great Britain to Mexico.

The first line is, “I poisoned your drink.” It’s spoken in a Philadelphia airport bar by The Blonde to Jack Eisley, a journalist passing through. Here’s the deal: she has been injected with nanites (tiny robots) which course through her blood. She must stay within 10 feet of someone at all times. If she doesn’t, the nanites will know, and her head will explode. Slipping poison into Jack’s drink, with the promise that he’ll die in 9 hours unless she gives him the antidote, is her way of keeping someone close.

The nanites trace back to a diabolical scientist named The Operator, who is following her. There’s another US agency involved, and they’ve sent a benevolence killer named Kowalski after her. Then Jack gets infected with the nanites, too–they can be transmitted through saliva, and in a weak moment he kissed the Blonde. So now he has to stay within 10 feet of someone at all times, too.

The book takes us on a wild ride through nighttime Philadelphia. As with Swierczynski’s other books, the plot is unpredictable. You just don’t know where things are headed, though it’s obvious a showdown is in the works.

I was surprised when THE END came after 225 pages, and another 50 pages remained. Those 50 pages were filled with a novella called “The Redhead,” which was a sequel to “The Blonde.” Interesting. “The Redhead” was very good.

I’ve become a big fan of Duane Swierczynski. He has a few other books out there, and a new one coming out in March 2011. I need to track these books down.

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