by Jeff Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
With The Bubble Gum Thief (Thomas & Mercer December 2012), Jeff Miller has surely launched what will be a brilliant writing career. In an era where taking on new unproven authors can be risky, where publishers only want the Blockbusters and Run Away Best Sellers, Miller’s debut novel will surely prove to be the best decision Thomas & Mercer has made in, oh I don’t know–months. Or years. Usually, new novelists take a few books to work out the plotting kinks, figure out how to develop characters as readers like to discover them. Not Miller. Bubble Gum Thief includes an intriguing plot, richly woven multilayered characters, and enough setting details to make the reader feel like they are smack in the middle of every chase, every kidnapping, every romantic date.
The story starts as the typical FBI thriller–young agent (in this case, Dagney Gray) runs askance of her FBI bosses and is sent to a dead end class. There, she catches the eye of an eccentric over-the-hill agent sidelined far from the FBI action as the teacher of a class-of-last-resort. He recruits her to help with what turns out to be a serial killer at the beginning of his murderous career.
Nothing else is typical about the story. Dagney has a clever brain that connects the dots in ways we the reader don’t expect. And she has anorexia, a disease she struggles to control, sometimes just survive. This subplot runs through the main plot so fluidly I found myself losing my appetite, challenging myself to be better, and wanting to take up running–all characteristics of anorexics.
Miller’s writer voice is friendly, easy to follow, like the great storytellers that populate the libraries of his characters–Michael Collins and Jeffrey Deaver. His knowledge of FBI investigation techniques is fascinating and fresh, many new to me despite that I read boatloads of crime novels. For example:
…the unsub…had created an elaborate and impressive website for his fake security company (The site was now gone, but Dagny and Victor found a cache of it at archive.org).
For more, see pages 245 and 364.
One request: The cover needs help. I had to look at it way too long to figure out what was going on.
Overall Miller is a bright new thriller writer who can people my imagination anytime. I look forward to his next book.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Today’s Author and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and monthly contributor to Today’s Author. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, creator of technology training books for middle school and ebooks on technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.