Review: The Accident by Chris Pavone

In New York City, Isabel Reed, one of the most respected and powerful literary agents in the city, frantically turns the pages of a manuscript into the early dawn hours. This manuscript – printed out, hand-delivered, totally anonymous – is full of shocking revelations and disturbing truths, things which could compromise national security. Is this what she’s been waiting for her entire career: a book that will help her move on from a painful past, a book that could save her beloved industry… a book that will change the world?

In Copenhagen, Hayden Gray, a veteran station chief, wary of the CIA’s obsession with the Middle East, has been steadfastly monitoring the dangers that abound in Europe. Even if his bosses aren’t paying attention, he’s determined to stay vigilant. And he’s also on the trail of this manuscript – and the secrets that lie at its heart. For him, quite simply, it must never see the light of day.

As Isabel and Hayden try to outwit each other, the nameless author watches on from afar. With no-one quite sure who holds all the cards, the stakes couldn’t be higher: in just twenty-four hours careers could be ruined, devastating secrets could be unearthed, and innocent people could die.


Taking place over just one day, The Accident is a fast moving story with plenty of twists, turns and a compelling central idea. When a biography of a media mogul begins to cause the death of all those who come into contact with it, we are left to wonder what mysterious figure lies behind the deadly manuscript? Yet as an avid reader, with a book set within the publishing industry itself, this should tick all the boxes for me but somehow falls short of bestseller status.

Literary agent Isabel Reed is handed a once in a lifetime chance of publishing a manuscript that can set the world alight when ‘The Accident’ arrives on her desk. She is strong, resourceful and looking for one last big break after a number of misfires. In pursuit of her is Hayden Gray, a man used to hiding in the shadows, and looking to track down and destroy the manuscript that is mysteriously sent to Isabel. The novel flits between these two, gradually introducing other characters as the story hurtles along towards its inevitable conclusion. We also see extracts from the manuscript itself, as slivers of the pages slowly reveal the background of the titular accident, and we see events from the viewpoint of the mysterious anonymous author himself, a man capable of researching the book and writing it whilst hiding from the eyes of Charlie Wolfe.

Charlie Wolfe looms over the book as the head of Wolfe Media, running a media empire whose tentacles reach far and wide and also the subject of ‘The Accident’. Capable of bribery and murder, he comes across as a much nicer Rupert Murdoch (OK, perhaps not), a man with a murky past and secrets to hide. Slowly as the book continues and we see more from the manuscript and more of the author, a picture emerges of quite why Wolfe wants so many people dead.

With Isabel it was certainly interesting to see a glimpse into the world of publishing and judging by the back of one of his books, it is a world that Chris Pavone has previously worked in. It didn’t quite marry with what I’ve witnessed in the publishing industry here in the UK (it was a tad more glamourous on the pages here) but who doesn’t want a bit a giltz and glamour in a thriller? Isabel tries to get the book published as quickly as possible but with Gray hunting her down, every facet of publishing is explored with rather bloody consequences.

Sadly there just seemed to be something missing throughout

As The Accident comes to a conclusion, sadly there just seemed to be something missing throughout. The book is divided into three parts, morning, afternoon and evening and it was the condensed timescale that began to rankle. As the bodies begin to pile up, the credulity of the book began to stretch thin and I wanted events to occur at a slower pace, to take stock of the events taking place and characters to respond accordingly. There was also some slightly wonky characterisation and the fact that it was hard to believe that the manuscript itself would topple a media empire or lead to lives being extinguished so rapidly meant that these niggles detracted from the overall thrills in this thriller.

The Accident is certainly a page turning read and I’d be interested in reading more from Chris Pavone but in the end it didn’t quite live up to the promise made at the start.

The Accident by Chris Pavone is out now from Faber and Faber Crime, priced £12.99. Buy it now from Waterstones.
Our review copy was provided by the publisher.

– Rob @robchilver

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