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  • Written by Graham McNamee
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On Sale: December 18, 2008
Pages: 240 | ISBN: 978-0-307-51022-8
Published by : Laurel Leaf RH Childrens Books

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Read by Scott Brick
On Sale: April 12, 2005
ISBN: 978-0-307-20734-0
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mystery (49) suspense (27) serial killer (25) young adult (20) thriller (17) toronto (16) fiction (15) murder (13) teen (11) diary (11) ya (10) subway (10) canada (9) teen fiction (9) action (9) crime (8) lost and found (5) death (4)
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

It's a hot summer and in the depths of the Toronto Transit Authority's lost and found, 17-year-old Duncan is cataloging misplaced belongings. And between Jacob, the cranky old man who runs the place, and the endless dusty boxes overflowing with stuff no one will ever claim, Duncan has just about had enough. Then he finds a little leather book filled with the dark and dirty secrets of a twisted mind, a serial killer stalking his prey in the subway. And Duncan can't stop reading. What would you do with a book like that? How far would you go to catch a madman? 

Excerpt

One

This is a nightmare.

Working at the Toronto Transit Commission's lost and found. Nine to five. Monday to Friday. A little slice of death, one day at a time.

For me it's a two-month sentence, July and August. I would have been happy bumming around till September, but Dad called in a favor to get me in here. And at least I don't have to wear a uniform like my bud Wayne over at the Dairy Barn. Wayne's planning to torch the thing on Labor Day (the uniform, not the Barn) before we head back for our last year of high school.

So I'm here under protest, a political prisoner of the capitalist overlord otherwise known as Dad.

Here's the one-minute tour of the place. First, to get here you have to come to Bay subway station and take the service elevator down to the subbasement. At the end of the hall to your left you'll find the door marked lost and found. Jacob, my supervisor, sits at the front counter cataloguing the lost junk that comes in from the buses and subways in the transit system. If you think of a half-deflated soccer ball with two of the hairiest ears you've ever seen attached to it, you've got a good picture of Jacob. Past the counter there's a maze of stacks holding row after row, shelf after dusty shelf of lost stuff.

I'm trying on a black leather jacket in the stacks when the bell at the counter dings. The jacket's term expires in a week, so it'll soon be appearing in my closet as part of the Duncan collection. One ding of the bell means Jacob needs me to search for something. Two dings means hurry up. Three dings--things get ugly.

When I get to the counter, Jacob's asking an old woman about the weather up on the surface. Spending eight hours a day in this dungeon, you tend to forget that the sun is still shining up there.

"They say it's going to hit a hundred and three today," the woman tells him. "Not a cloud in the sky."

It's been six weeks with no rain. Major heat wave. But down here you'd never know. The city could be bombed to ashes and we'd still be here sorting through the piles.

"Duncan, we're looking for a pair of glasses," Jacob tells me. "Silver frames. Bifocals."

I sigh. "Right. This might take a while."

Eyeglasses rank in the top four on the list of most often lost items, right up there with umbrellas, cell phones, and books.

I'm the runner, the one who does the actual searching. Jacob does the actual sitting.

I don't know who did this job before me--don't know if anybody did it before me--but the place is a mess. The way it works, stuff gets held here for three months. Everything's got a Post-it with an expiration date. Anything unclaimed gets boxed up for the quarterly sale down at the YMCA. But if you poke around, you'll find stuff that's been here for two years or more. I pulled a college sweater off the top shelf the other day, and the dust coming off it drifted down like snow.

Lost junk is organized in sections. All the jackets are together, including my black leather beauty. Dozens of umbrellas are heaped in a pile, enough rain protection to keep every last flea on Noah's ark dry. There's a library of forgotten books overflowing the packed shelves. And there are two boxes of eyeglasses, separated into sunglasses and regular. I dig in.

There's an amazing variety, everything from prescription swimming goggles to your basic thick-black-framed geek glasses to your old-lady specials with the necklace holders attached to the arms. I find a pair that fits the lady's description--bifocals, silver frames. Holding them up to peer through the lenses, I see they've got enough magnifying power to count the hairs on a mosquito's butt.

"That's them," the old woman says after trying them on.

Jacob makes her sign the claims book, as if the glasses are worth more than the dollar they'd get at the Y sale.

"I'm lost without these," she tells us. "I'm so blind without them, I didn't realize until I was halfway here that I'd put hand lotion on my face instead of sunscreen. I can already feel a burn starting up."

Jacob nods. "Yeah. With the holes in the ozone and global warming, the sun's not as friendly as it used to be."

The woman shivers, pulling her jacket closed. "Well, it's certainly cool down here."

"We're about fifty feet underground--deeper than the subway tunnels--so the temperature stays a constant cool year-round. This must be what it feels like to be buried alive." That's Jacob's idea of funny. I think he's been down here too long.

The woman gives him a nervous look and mumbles her thanks as she makes for the door.

"You've really got a way with the ladies," I say when she's gone.

No response.

I fill a paper cup at the cooler, leaning on it as it gurgles to itself, and watch the clock crawl toward eternity. Jacob goes back to reading the newspaper.

Past him, there's a glass case on the wall that once held a fire axe but now has an artificial leg standing inside. That leg is like the official mascot of all the forgotten junk in the lost and found. There's a worn-down blue men's Puma running shoe on its foot, and it's obviously been well used. It always gets me wondering--how do you lose something like that? I mean, didn't the guy notice something was missing when he went hopping off the subway--that the world was bouncing up and down more than usual? What happened, that he never came back to claim it? Jacob says the thing's been here for three years.


From the Hardcover edition.
Graham McNamee|Author Q&A

About Graham McNamee

Graham McNamee - Acceleration

Photo © Bodegadesigns.com

BONECHILLER was inspired by a nightmare. The story takes place in a small northern town with a dark secret. Based on a real town where my uncle had a little lakeside cottage we visited in the summer when I was a kid. A place of warm, sun-filled memories.

But one year we made the mistake of going up there in the dead of winter for some ice-fishing. A very bad idea. Because when the cold took over, our cottage country hideaway turned into an icy ghost town. All the cabins were boarded up for the long winter, and there wasn't a soul to be found. The wind chill off the frozen lake bit at our faces with icicle teeth. A snow squall blew in just as we got there, burying the roads and trapping us in the cottage for two shivering nights. The thermometer bottomed out, and we slept with our boots on.

Outside, the squall was howling, heaping drifts up against the cottage and trying to pry the wooden planks off the boarded windows. I stayed up half the night peering through knotholes in the wood, trying to spot the 'thing' that was making that howling noise. More than just the wind, I was sure there was something alive out in the freezing dark. Something big and mad, and hungry. In bed, even with my ear muffs on, that arctic howl found me. And when I finally slept, 'it' came to me. A huge snow-pale beast with blade-like teeth, ice pick claws and big silver eyes. It chased me through my dreams, through the ice-bound town. And when it caught me--it always caught me--all I could do was stare at my own reflection in those hideous, silver-mirrored eyes. And scream until I screamed myself awake.
After two nights of nightmares we finally made it out, driving over the frozen lake to get back to the main road. I remember looking through the rear window, searching the snowy landscape for my beast. The dreams haunted me for months after. And the cottage was never the same after that. Because even in the heat of summer I knew something was hiding, and only waiting for the deep freeze to come back out.
So here's my nightmare, my beast. My Bonechiller. Sweet dreams.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Graham McNamee works at the Vancouver Public Library. His novel Hate You is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and his novel Sparks won the PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship.

Author Q&A

Q. What inspired you to write this story?

A. I love a good suspense novel. So I thought I’d set one where I grew up, with the kind of slacker guys I hung with, and give them the impossible task of hunting down an anonymous psychopath. Sort of like “What I did on my summer vacation” meets Silence of the Lambs. I wanted it to read like a movie, real visual and atmospheric, and to be something you could sink into, like quicksand.

Q. Tell us about your writing habits.

A. I usually write from midnight to four in the morning. Why? I don’t know. I get to feeling guilty for wasting the day doing nothing, so I make myself sit down, shut up, and just write something. I write on the computer, mainly because I can’t read my own handwriting.

Q. Did working on this book make you feel differently about the subway?

A. My buds and I used to hang out in the subway when we were young and bored. We’d do dumb stuff, like run from one platform across the tracks to the other side. We didn’t know about the third rail back then, the one that carries the electrical current and will fry you to ashes if you touch it. And we’d dare each other to run down the tunnel to thenext station. (Don’t try this at home, unless you want toget flattened into an idiot pancake.) Years later, when I was working downtown, I had to ride the subway during rush hour. Packedso tight you couldn’t move, me and the rest of the workforce droneswould wait on the platform for the next train. A lot of times I’d be standing at the front, my toes inches from the edge, and I’d think how easy it would be for someone to just give me a little shove, nothing conspicuous, and push me over the edge. Staring across at the platform on the other side, I tried to figure if I could squeeze in that little space under the edge. And every time, as the train rushed in, I’d feel a tiny tug of vertigo, like I was starting to fall. But I never did feel that hand on my back, pushing me over. And I never found out if I’d fit under the edge.

Q. Did you always know how Acceleration was going to end?

A. I knew the ending before I knew the beginning. I had the death scene in my head for months before I wrote it down, replaying it over and over so I got the choreography of it just right.

Q. The guys in Acceleration live in an apartment complex called the Jungle. Is this based on an actual place?

A. The Jungle is real. It’s located right on the edge of an industrial area in Toronto. There are factories, breweries, and a steel mill nearby. The city dump is two blocks away. It was a fun place for us to grow up, a great urban wilderness to adventure in. We’d raid the factory Dumpsters for stuff like defective rolls of decals and halfmelted toy soldiers. Stuff nobody wanted but us. At the dump we’d do target practice with my buds’ pellet guns. We didn’t go down in the sewers much, but there were big runoff drains where you could squeeze through the bars and go exploring underground. (One little note: rolled-up newspapers make bad torches—they burn fast and wild, and it takes months for your eyebrows to grow back.)

Q. This was your first thriller. How did writing it compare toyour other, very different books?

A. Tough question. I mean, after I write a novel and it comes out in stores, I always shake my head and say— “Man, I wrote a book?” I’m pretty clueless how I wrote those other novels. All my stuff is told in first person, and I have to really get in the character’s head to nail their voice so it sounds true. Once the book is done, the voice is gone. Kind of like an exorcism. Accelerationis darker and more intense than the others, and setting it where I grew up was kind of like going back home again, and waking up the ghosts.

Q. What was the hardest part to write?

A. Probably the animal mutilation stuff. I’m one of those freak vegetarians who won’t even eat eggs or dairy. I avoid honey because I’m never sure the bees are being treated nicely enough. So writing about this psycho who tortures small, furry creatures haunted me for a while.

Q. How much rewriting and revising do you do?

A. Endless rewrites. Sometimes the first draft is total garbage. I shred the pages, then burn them to ashes and bury them deep in the forest where nobody will ever find them. But I keep going, and eventually I come up with a decent sentence, then a catchy chunk of dialogue. And kind of by accident it starts to look like hiding in the stacks, hunting down details for some new story. Then I’d get hopelessly lost on the Internet searching for things that don’t exist. But I gotta tell you, research sucks. Too much work. You know how at the beginning of some mystery/suspense/thrillers the author will have these “acknowledgments” where they thank all the people who helped them get the details right? They’ll mention people like doctors, historians, lawyers, and cops. Well, I ain’t got those kinds of connections. The only people I know are white trash like me. So if I have questions about scrubbing toilets, working at McDonald’s, or defrauding Unemployment Insurance, then I’m in luck. Otherwise, I’m on my own. And screwed.

Q. Are any of the characters in Acceleration based on real people?


A. It’s more like I tossed a bunch of my buds into a blender and then saw what stuck together. There was a kid I knew with a deformed arm who was really smart and crafty, like Vinny. But thiswas one angry guy, and hanging out with him was like leaning on barbed wire. There were a couple of Waynes, basically criminal but easygoing guys, who like Wayne “never did a crime that had a face.” And Duncan? Well, I guess he’s me. The hero, of course. Only he’s got more balls, and he’s way less moody than me.

Q. Roach is such a scary, awful character. How did you think him up?


A. Roach came from research into the dark places twisted people go to feed their deviant desires. I had to read a bunch of ugly stuff about these grotesque personalities to something. It’s sort of like a blind guy building a house.

Q. How much research do you have to do before writing a book? Where do you do this research?

A. I used to work at a library, where I’d spend half my shift bring Roach to life. That kind of stuff leaves a stain on your soul. You know, once you see something you can’t un-see it. You just have to make sure you kill that Roach scuttling around in your head when the book is done, before it becomes an infestation.

Q. This could be considered a pretty violent story. What do you think about violence and the world we live in today?

A. I guess it’s a violent book. I mean, people get brutally beaten, cut, drowned, and run over by a subway. But still, come on, there were some laughs. It wasn’t all death and disfigurement. Seriously, I’m not really smart enough to say anything about violence and society. I mean, what do I know? Except maybe this—there’s a dark place in the human heart that can go undiscovered your whole life, where an animal capacity for violence lives. Maybe it’s hidden in that oldest reptilian core of our brains— the instinct that to fight is to live another day, to kill is to survive. But seriously, what do I know?


From the Paperback edition.

Praise

Praise

An Edgar Award Winner


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