Catherine Lea, who wrote the excellent The Candidate’s Daughter, says the reason she used the pen name CJ Lea for The Contestant is because the books are so different. The Candidate’s Daughter is a billed as a “thriller with a heart”. The characters in The Contestant? Completely heartless. However, like the first book, it is a fast-moving thriller with well-drawn characters and the perfect amount of description to allow you to watch along in your head. It definitely pulled me along with the same relentless energy found in the first book. Whatever you call her, Ms. Lea writes a memorable and enjoyable book.
I initially found the book difficult to believe as it set up the premise of the “Games Club.” Others may find it difficult in the beginning for the same reason: the premise might not actually be doable in reality-world. However, I was able to willingly and eagerly suspend my disbelief within a few chapters as the story pulled me along into a complex game between a dangerous set of contestants who would do anything to reap their reward.
Although the book is fast-paced, the author takes the time and care to develop the main character, Raymond, in all his evil glory. Confined to a wheelchair and more than bitter about it, Raymond is one scary dude who is determined to come out ahead no matter who gets in the way. I had to keep reading just to make sure he got his comeuppance. You’ll need to keep reading, too, because no way am I giving out any spoilers!
Populated with characters who are sociopathic, narcissistic, and arrogant, the story makes it difficult to find anyone to root for. But who cares? The action blasts along in visually wrought scenes that would work brilliantly at the moving picture show, the story is interesting with a number of twists, and the ending is ultimately satisfying.
Sensitive readers are warned that the book has a great deal of graphic violence. Additionally, if you like a book where the evil characters are capable of change or redemption, skip this one. Raymond is a real bad guy. However, if you are a fan of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series and other dark suspense/thriller writers, you will probably enjoy The Contestant.
You can purchase The Contestant on Amazon.com. At the time of this review, the book is available for $2.99 and is also available in the Kindle Unlimited program.