Critical acclaim for Fatal Exchange: "Gritty." "Edgy." "Shocking." "Intense." "A classic." "Sadistically good."
Tess Gideon, a female Manhattan bike messenger with an appetite for the wild side, becomes embroiled in a rogue nation's Byzantine scheme to destabilize the U.S. financial system.
From the sweltering streets of Seoul to the sex-and-drug-driven underbelly of Greenwich Village, attempts at silencing a leak in an international counterfeiting operation leave a trail of butchery that leads inevitably to Wall Street, pitting a counter-culture heroine against a ruthless state-sponsored assassination team that will stop at nothing to achieve its lethal ends.
As the body count climbs, Tess is assisted by Detective Ron Stanford, a NYPD homicide specialist tracking a brutal serial killer whose ritualistic cycle of murder and mutilation targeting bike messengers is escalating to fever pitch.
Tess's battle to survive propels her into a deadly underworld where she must become judge and executioner, challenging her core beliefs about morality, justice and love.
Q & A for Fatal Exchange with bestselling author Russell Blake
Question: Fatal Exchange features a female protagonist in a complex conspiracy/intrigue thriller. What was it like writing a female lead character, & why did you do it?
Russell Blake: I wanted to try something different, to create a hero who was complex, troubled, but had tremendous inner strength. I conceptualized that character as female, in the mold of an Angelina Jolie-type kick-ass protagonist, & the image stuck with me. Tess wrote herself, & what I thought would be a challenge turned out to be one of the easiest characters to visualize & feel.
Q: Fatal Exchange has two discreet & seemingly separate storylines. Why?
RB: I wanted to push the envelope & try something different. I always wanted to do a serial killer plot, a la Tom Harris. In the end, I decided to experiment with two concurrent stories, & see if I could maintain the suspense of both & then dovetail them in the end. I think it worked well; both keep the reader engaged & build plot tension, and they resolve nicely.
Q: Fatal Exchange is written differently than most thrillers. Can you comment on that? It seems to speed along at a faster clip
RB: Another experiment. I thought it would be interesting to write the literary equivalent of a season of "24" - a series of short, punchy scenes with huge impact ingrained in each. I started the first 50 pages like that & liked the effect, so finished the book that way. I've since expanded that technique, but Fatal Exchange was the model.
Q: What inspired Fatal Exchange?
RB: I'd read about accusations of North Korea counterfeiting $100 bills, & I thought that would be a great backdrop for a thriller - what if some got out before they were perfect? What if the stakes were all or nothing? What lengths would a rogue nation go to in order to protect a secret? From that came the book.
Q: Some of the scenes are so graphic as to make one wince. Have you gotten flack for that?
RB: I had a few readers say they were cringing, reading between their fingers as they hid their eyes. That tells me I did my job. I think good fiction should take you out of reality, & be so evocative as to put you in the story. I wanted something gritty & visceral & shocking. The scenes are paced for specific effect, & I like how they wound up working.
Q: Describe your average reader's profile
RB: My readers are highly intelligent, have read a ton, are cynical & jaded, & demand a lot from a book. They eschew the predictable & want thrillers that push the envelope & move them in a way they can't get elsewhere. Many of my biggest fans are authors, which I love, because they're the harshest critics & if you can move them, you're doing something right.