In this book that’s quite a list, actually. You see, things aren’t well at Murphy, Knox & Associates. In fact, the seven employees who are called in to a special Saturday morning “managers meeting” are informed things are going so poorly the financial services company is being shut down.
This would be shocking enough news under normal circumstances, but it becomes downright horrifying when CEO David Murphy informs those gathered that the company is actually a front for a covert intelligence agency. Oh, and part of the shutting down process includes killing all present.
Taking into account their loyal service, Murphy has considerately arranged a special blend of champagne and OJ to ease them on their way painlessly, a murderous mimosa if you will. There is an alternative severance package, however, for anyone who doesn’t want to take the easy way out: a bullet to the head.
No use trying to escape, the floor has been sealed – elevator locked down, stairwells rigged with sarin bombs – landlines disconnected, corporate cell phones they all carry deactivated, and there’s no one else working in the building. So, who’s first? Confident Murphy has merely set up an elaborate, if demented, corporate loyalty test, one of those gathered downs the cocktail in hopes of impressing the boss. When he promptly keels over and it finally sinks in that this is not a game, Murphy’s previously demure assistant pulls a gun and shoots him in the head. And then things really go to hell.
Of all the books I’ve read in my life, this is the one that most vividly unfolded like a movie in my head. Think Die Hard, but a version of it where in addition to trying to kill John McClane all the terrorists were trying to kill each other as well. For that’s what quickly ensues in Severance Package as panic takes over and people devolve into an every man for himself mentality. It doesn’t help matters that as things progress it becomes clear that not everyone is who they initially appear to be, and in fact some genuinely badass people with conflicting agendas are running loose on the 36th floor.
Swierczynski’s trademark mix of pitch black humor and über violence are front and center in Severance Package, with the death count both high and jaw-droppingly creative. I guarantee you’ll never look at an office paper trimmer the same way again. And yet, through all the over-the-top action there is a distinctly down to earth human element to the story, one embodied by Jamie DeBroux. Arguably the only truly innocent person with the misfortune to be on the 36th floor that day, Jamie goes through an amazing progression from disbelief and denial to unwavering determination in his effort to stay alive and get home to his wife and new baby. Whether he does or not, well, you’ll just have to read the book yourself to find out.
Severance Package is available from Minotaur (ISBN: 978-0312343804), and features cover art and eight original drawings by comic book artist and illustrator Dennis Calero.
Coming Tomorrow: A review of Fun and Games.