Friday, February 10, 2017

REVIEW: The Blacklist: The Beekeeper (No. 159) by Steven Piziks

The Blacklist: The Beekeeper (No. 159)
Author: Steven Piziks
Publisher: Titan Books
Genre: Thriller/Mystery/Media Tie-In

4/5 stars
PG-13 for action violence
Recommend to fans of The Blacklist. This is a companion to the show, so if you're not watching it, a lot of things aren't going to make sense. (But if you're not watching, you totally should be. First 3 seasons are on Netflix right now. I'm just saying.)

A brand-new original The Blacklist novel. Raymond Reddington brings Elizabeth Keen a new Blacklister: the Bodysnatcher, an unnamed, unknown man who has turned kidnapping into an art form. But when Lizzie and the team move to intercept the Bodysnatcher, they discover that he is not their real target. Their real target is much more sinister and it will take all their strength and dedication to resist him - and to discover what Reddington is really after. -via Goodreads

The Review

Tie-in novels are always tricky, ranging somewhere between terrible to mediocre. This one is actually good, both on its own and as an addition to the series, so I'm doubly impressed with Piziks, Titan Books, and everyone else who made this book happen. I've already pre-ordered the next tie-in novel -The Dead Ring (No. 166)- releasing March 2017.

The first thing I noticed is how Piziks really gets into Elizabeth Keen's head when he narrates from her perspective. She automatically profiles everyone and every situation and this more than anything gives the novel authentic flair. Keen's a profiler; she's had intensive training and it's what she does for a living. Piziks almost does a better job bringing this aspect into focus than even a lot of the episodes do.

In fact, Piziks easily steps into the minds of all the characters. Obviously, this means the story features multiple points of view, but he does it well, and this helps the story to read just like an episode. Aram, Cooper, Ressler, Navabi -I could see and visualize all of them from the way they were written.
"Think of Reddington. He wouldn't want you in here, and he's like a father to you. A twisted, bizarro-world father, but still." -Ressler, pg 141
Piziks especially nails Reddington. This is crucial! Reddington is the axis of the whole story and James Spader's portrayal of him that of the show. How Piziks portrays Red is simple but accurate, bringing Spader's lilt and irreplaceable mannerisms to life without unnecessary descriptors. Though moments actually in Red's point of few are fewer and farther in between, they are nonetheless thrilling in their believability and intrigue just as much as such moments in the show. And there's no shortage of Reddington's stories and anecdotes. I especially like the 'stale-cracker moment'.
Aram swallowed and forced himself to stay calm. Reddington needed him. Reddington wasn't going to do anything to him. It was all in Aram's head. But Reddington's hard eyes still held the screams, and Aram's mouth dried up. -pg 203
AND WE GET RED BACK STORY. They certainly didn't skimp on Red Info just because it's a tie-in. While it's not necessarily earth-shattering, it's definitely tasty and intriguing stuff, giving us a look at some of his early development and some of the people who shaped it. I'm a little on the fence as to how it lines up satisfactorily in his timeline so far as set down by the show, but I'm dying to find out how it all fits!

The villain in this piece -The Beekeeper- is especially interesting because he is the perfect antagonist for our profiler Liz Keen. A cult-like leader, he uses mind games, brainwashing, and skilled manipulation to cultivate followers and this is right in Liz's wheelhouse. This is exactly what she's trained for and it creates an interesting conflict between Liz and Red. Liz insists on taking down The Beekeeper herself, convinced she can repel his brainwashing attempts because of her training. The inevitable danger of it is just part of the job to her, but Red fights to keep her out of that exact danger. You can imagine how well Liz takes that.

The story itself is solid and easily could have been an actual episode, though I'm glad this one got to be a novel. It offers so much more insight into the characters and chances for developments between them. Several twists and turns developed that I didn't anticipate and others I thought I saw coming actually didn't (which is good, because that would have disappointed me). I loved the way that everything developed and resolved because it was so Red and it was so The Blacklist.

Inconsistencies and Timeline:
There were actually very few inconsistencies, most notably Dembe sometimes speaking broken English and 'Mrs. Kaplan', but these are pretty mild and the rest of the book easily made up for these mistakes.

Trying to pinpoint this event in The Blacklist timeline was tricky, but I finally nailed it down to early season 4. I assume the lack of reference to S4 characters and events was an effort to avoid potential spoilers.
In the end, The Beekeeper (No. 159) is an authentic slice of The Blacklist and it's probably the best tie-in novel I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Bravo, Piziks; bravo.

What are the best and the worst tie-in novels you've ever read?


  1. Honestly? I don't think I've read a tie-in novel yet. I actually haven't even seen The Blacklist--*gasp* I know! LOL Entertaining review though! :) ~Aleen

    1. Thanks, Aleen! It's a good show, if you're looking for a new one.
      Tie-ins are kind of notorious. In my experience, good fanfictions are 9 times better than official tie-ins, but they're not canon. If publishers hired the better fanfiction writers to write tie-ins -whoa mamma they'd make fans happy.