Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Brian O’Sullivan is further and further stretching his writing arm in the thriller genre, moving away from political topics to give us a more classic crime story in his latest book, Revenge at Sea. Following a small-time reporter by the name of Quint Adler, the story takes us on a wild chase as he becomes a suspect in some gruesome murders and is forced to finish the search for truth he foolishly started in hopes of moving up in life.
Table of contents
Brian O’Sullivan Unleashes Quint the Fugitive
The aspiration for bigger and greater and things, despite what pop culture might suggest, definitely isn’t a pursuit everyone is attracted to. Many people are more than happy living quaint and comfortable lives without getting involved in any sort of trouble. However, I don’t think anyone can deny we still very much need those willing to throw themselves into the fire, people like Quint Adler, the small-time reporter and protagonist of Brian O’Sullivan‘s latest novel, Revenge at Sea.
Living in Walnut Creek not far from Oakland, Quint has what many would consider a relatively idyllic life. He works at a tiny but stable newspaper publication, mostly reporting on bike thefts and getting compensated rather well by his bosses, a retired couple with seemingly more money than they know what to do with. However, like many reporters, he yearns for something more, and on his 40th birthday he gets the opportunity (as well as misfortune) of a lifetime.
After landing in a hospital bed during his evening of escapades, he overhears a rather suspicious conversation coming from the cot next to his. Deciding to follow up on it, Quint ends up on the scene of a gruesome murder, which quickly leads him to a connected double homicide.
Though he begins to investigate it for his newspaper, the stakes really begin to rise when he himself is considered a suspect, and the true culprit behind it all is nigh-untouchable. With the noose tightening around his neck, Quint charges onward, giving his body and soul to do what a good reporter does: shine the light of truth on the case.
A Marathon of Developments in Revenge at Sea
Every book genre has its purpose in life, and when it comes to thrillers, I firmly believe their number on designation is to entertain us and help us pass an enjoyable evening or two. As such, they generally benefit from not being overly complicated or ambitious, especially since this can very easily lead them down a road of pretentiousness. Personally, I found Revenge at Sea to be a perfect exemplification of what a solid and captivating thriller should be all about.
The chapters themselves are fairly short and the language used is, for the most part, simple and very easy to follow. Each one of them focuses on something specific – whether it’s characters deliberating or a short chain of events – and this allows us to effortlessly keep track of the events and their many developments.
Indeed, while there are a few segments here and there focusing on character development (more on this below) the brunt of the focus is placed on Quint’s investigation into the murders he is gets accused of. The twists and turns along the way are fairly numerous as you would expect, but I was surprised by how many of them I didn’t see coming, something which happens less and less often as the thriller genre becomes more saturated.
While the overall pace of the plot doesn’t exactly give us much time to actually think about what we’re seeing, I don’t think it’s necessary for, according to my impression at least, O’Sullivan understood not to deviate his writing from the investigative thriller this novel is at its core.
Strong Supporting Structure
A good thriller is more often than not decided by its main plot and key elements, but what exactly makes for a great thriller?
I think the answer is in the supporting cast and overall structure used to frame the rest of the story. After all, even if we have the greatest mystery, it will still be lacklustre to read through without compelling characters with whom we can form emotional bonds, or at least be interested in.
While I don’t want to declare it as an outright objective truth, I felt O’Sullivan‘s greatest feat was the extent to which he managed to develop all the characters considering how little time some of them were given. His depictions of them are always very concise and straight to the point, telling us a lot about both their history and inner worlds with a few adjectives or a very short glimpse into their past.
I never had any problems distinguishing between them and I was always able to picture them straight away when they appeared on the page. Most of them are quite likeable and easy to root for, and the ones who aren’t definitely weren’t meant to be, and thankfully it never seemed to fall into the realm of cliches.
Additionally, there are also a couple of side ventures thrown in there for the sake of variety and taking a breather from the main story, including an amusing romance plot, the woes of a small-time news publication, and Quint’s parallel investigation into the seemingly random and unexplained murder of his own father not long ago.
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These elements come together nicely and help flesh out the world O’Sullivan is trying to build; by the halfway point it felt like a very real place where happiness and misery are found in equal measure across a nebulous landscape where everyone is simply trying to do their best.
The Final Verdict
Revenge at Sea by Brain O’Sullivan is what I would call a great and complete crime thriller, putting together a captivating main story, interesting, likeable and realistic characters, entertaining side plots, all in an expertly-fleshed out world. If you enjoy crime thrillers, especially ones starring fugitive reporters, then I strongly recommend you check out this book.
Brian O’Sullivan is an American author from the San Francisco Bay Area who spent nearly a decade after graduation playing poker professionally against some of the best in the world. Following his exploits in the card game, he began writing screenplays and eventually turned to writing novels.
Most notably, he has expedited the publication of his book The Puppeteer due to his hatred for the toxic political climate pervading the country, a novel which earned him numerous accolades.