“Josh Michaels is worth more dead than alive. He just doesn’t know it yet. He has no idea why someone would try to kill him, clearly that’s exactly what happened. When an SUV forced Josh’s car off the road and into a river, it might have been an accident. But when Josh looked up at the road, expecting to see the SUV’s driver rushing to help him, all he saw was the driver watching him calmly…then giving him a “thumbs down” sign. That was merely the first attempt on Josh’s life, all of them designed to look like accidents, and all of them very nearly fatal. With his time—and maybe his luck—running out and no one willing to believe him, Josh had better figure out who wants him dead and why…before it’s too late.”

I love a good thriller. Thrillers, to me, are like perfect popcorn movies: you curl up with them and let them take you on a ride for a few hours. You may not remember the details of the story the next day, but you remember the experience. That’s part of the rush of Accidents Waiting to Happen. Josh Michaels was living the American Dream. Beautiful wife, wonderful kid, a great best friend, a job he excelled at, and a home to call his own. Then it all starts to slowly unravel the night of a mysterious accident.

The characters for the most part are little more than sketches, however, the two stand outs are, well, a couple of the villains: Bell, Josh’s scorned ex-lover who bursts back into his life to wreak all manner of havoc; and “the professional,” the man hired to kill him. Bell is every psycho ex-girlfriend rolled into one, beautiful, engaging, and crazy (you know what I mean, the kind that all but walk around with a sign saying “Do Not Feed the Crazy” that men inevitably are drawn to). What I enjoyed so much about “the professional” who is out to get poor Josh is how he goes about killing his victims. It is like he embodies the spirit of the Final Destination movie franchise with his carefully crafted machinations that make his killings look like accidents.

“What a sad and pointless life she led. Life to her was a malignant disease prolonging her suffering.” (page 148)

Accidents Waiting to Happen plunges us right into the mess of people’s lives. One of the ideas woven throughout the story is the idea that things (accidents) aren’t as random as we may often believe. That people are connected in ways we don’t think about or realize (if only names on a list). This points to the realization that people are relational beings. We are hard-wired for intimacy. Augustine spoke of a God-sized hole within each of us – essentially a built in need for intimacy. The pursuit of intimacy is similar to our pursuit of God. We seek that communion, that connection with Him as well as with others.

The ache of frustrated relations is what we experience as loneliness. Loneliness is that emotional pain we experience when we are not connecting to others in the way we want to be. Loneliness is painful because intimacy is a need and with a lack of intimacy, we are left with feelings of disconnectedness, being left out, and alienated. Loneliness, that inability to be connected in a way that satisfies is what drives Bell, Josh’s ex-mistress.

“But people are very keen to tell you the worst they have done, because in some twisted way we’re all turned on by the evil that men or women do.” (page 133)

At its core, Accidents Waiting to Happen is about past sins catching up to us, with unexpected consequences. Unconfessed sin has a way of rotting us from the inside, keeping us from being as we should and trapping us in a spiral of guilt and shame. We spend our time denying our guilt, running from it, or expending our energy covering it up rather than living as we should. A spirit of confession, as Josh has to learn, frees us. Owning your sins, offering them up, in a spirit of contriteness, humility, and brokenness, and the act can even become worship (Psalm 51:17)

Only then can we then go on with our lives as we should. We’re more than just sinners, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there are consequences to our sins; consequences that need to be resolved (hopefully in less thrilling fashion). We may still make mistakes, but we can recognize our moral failings and do something about them.

Accidents Waiting to Happen is a breezy page-turner. Seriously. I was done with the book in a few short hours wondering how I got so caught up in the story that I missed dinner (which truly sucks for everyone else at our house since I do the cooking). Full of twists and turns, the book manages to sustain a taut balance between tension and dark humor. Fast-paced almost to a fault, Wood demonstrates the kind of crisp prose that makes for a great thrill ride. What the book becomes is a screenplay waiting to happen.

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