Expiration Date may just be the best book that Duane Swierczynski has written yet. (I only say may because I think that The Wheelman might just be my favorite.) In it he has rendered his strengths in greater clarity: The pace flies; The plot grows increasingly complex but never gets unruly. Swierczynski regularly makes pace and plot his bitches and in Expiration Date he further bends them
over to his will.
If Duane’s books have a weakness though its that his characters can, at times, be a little thin. They serve the plot well and their motivations are clearly stated but the reader never gets fully invested in them. At the same time though, to keep things in proper perspective, the reader largely doesn’t care, or in most cases even notice, any potential deficiency because those strengths so far outweigh them. Swierczynski’s books do one thing right for the most part. They kick your ass and entertain the hell out of you.
With all of that said I think that he has spent FAR more time investing these characters with a relatable and sympathetic humanity that is immediately noticeable and much appreciated. And its for this simple reason that Expiration Date stands as his best so far.
As Chris Wade travels back and forth in time his concerns are so grounded that they become only slightly different that what the reader would do. He isn’t interested in changing the course of major events he just wants to find some pulp paperbacks.
But what really drives this story home and takes it to the next level is the relationships. There is a vulnerability to Wade that puts you on his side as he begins to try and solve his fathers murder. Certainly one could easily be reminded of the movie Frequency. His relationship with Meghan is remarkable true and honest and maybe even a little sweet as it develops over time. In Chris Wade Swierczynski has created a hero that we can root for and do.
In Expiration Date Duane Swierczynski has set the bar higher for himself. I wonder what he will do next.
As an aside: Astute readers will pick up that Expiration Date is linked to Swierczynski’s first novel, Secret Dead Men.