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Book Review: Boom! by Jim Brown

What would you do if you suddenly learned the exact time of your death, and it was measured in hours and minutes, not years or even days? What if that time was written on your arm in a black tattoo that changed, counting down the minutes till you would die?

Boom! by Jim Brown (www.jimbrownbooks.com) is an exciting, fast-paced thriller that gripped me from the first riveting chapter through to the satisfying conclusion.

A master storyteller, Brown postulates an act of terrorism that looks like magic, yet is slowly revealed to be cutting-edge science. The protagonist, a brilliant forensic psychologist suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after seeing her fiance blown up on a tour of duty in Iran, is fully-developed and likable despite her quirks and quick temper.

The story unfolds in a series of short, dramatic scenes which snap into place like a complex puzzle being put together. The plot is full of surprising twists which add suspense and kept me guessing right to the end. Although the scenes are brief, Brown depicts even his minor characters so well I felt I knew them.

The only drawback to this novel is its uniform quick pace. The fascinating "what if?' that Brown postulates is not explored in depth. For example, as the death tattoos become more prevalent and their meaning understood, I imagine there would be a greater variety of response from the victims. What would I do if my hour of death was approaching? Race to the airport for a long-delayed exotic trip? Make that life-changing phone call I've been delaying? Donate all my wealth to charity?  Showing some responses other than unanimous blind panic would have made a more thought-provoking book.

It also would have slowed down the fast-paced plot and escalating suspense, however, which may be why Brown chose to maintain the breathless speed his short, episodic style imparts.