The October List


By Jeffery Deaver

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One of Kirkus Review’s “Best Books of 2013”

The shocking end is only the beginning . . .

#1 bestselling author Jeffery Deaver has created the most riveting and original novel of the year-a race-against-the-clock mystery, told in reverse.

The October List

Gabriela waits desperately for news of her abducted daughter.
At last, the door opens.
But it’s not the negotiators. It’s not the FBI.
It’s the kidnapper.
And he has a gun.

How did it come to this?

Two days ago, Gabriela’s life was normal. Then, out of the blue, she gets word that her six-year-old daughter has been taken. She’s given an ultimatum: pay half a million dollars and find a mysterious document known as the “October List” within 30 hours, or she’ll never see her child again.

A mind-bending novel with twists and turns that unfold from its dramatic climax back to its surprising beginning, The October List is Jeffery Deaver at his masterful, inventive best.


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6:30 P.M., SUNDAY

SHE STOOD AT THE WINDOW of the Manhattan apartment, peering through a slit in the drapes. Her hands trembled.

"Do you see anyone?" the man across the room asked, voice edgy.

"I'm not sure. Maybe." Her body pitched forward, tense, Gabriela tugged the thick sheets of cloth closer together, as if someone was scanning the windows with binoculars. Or a sniper rifle. "Of course, I didn't see anybody earlier today, either. Until it was too late." She muttered fiercely, "I wish I had a gun now. I'd use it. If anybody's there, I swear to God I'd use it."

Sam Easton asked, "But who would it be?"

She turned to him, stepping away from the window fast. "Who? It could be anyone. Everybody in the world, it seems, wants the goddamn October List!"

"How could they know you were here?"

Gabriela gave a bitter laugh. "I don't seem to have any secrets anymore." She hesitated, then, reluctantly, she looked out again. "I just can't tell. I thought somebody was there. But the next minute he was gone. I—" Then she whispered manically, "The dead bolt!"

Sam stared, cocking his head.

Eyes wide in alarm, Gabriela asked, "Did I lock it?" She walked quickly out of the living room around the corner to the hallway and then returned. "No, it's okay. Everything's locked up."

Sam now took her place at the window, looked out. "I see shadows, I see some movement. But I can't tell for sure. Could be somebody, could be a tree blowing in the breeze. Damn streetlight's out, the one in front of the building." He glanced at her. "Was it working earlier?"

"I don't know," she said. "I think maybe it was. How could somebody shut out a streetlight?"

Sam didn't answer. He too stepped back from the slit between the drapes. He crossed the room and sat on a hassock near her. She'd noted earlier that he was in good shape but hadn't seen clearly how slim his waist was, how broad his shoulders. His muscles tested his suit jacket and white shirt.

Gabriela raged, "Jesus, I hate this!… Sarah, what's she going through? What's she thinking? What—?" Her voice choked. Then she breathed in and out slowly. "How soon, do you think, until we know?" Daniel and Andrew had left about a half hour ago to meet Joseph.

She wiped a dot of blood from her lower lip.

Sam said, "Hard to say. Joseph's got his own agenda, you know. The… someone in his position pretty much has all the power."

Gabriela could tell he'd been about to say "the kidnapper" but didn't want to add that, maybe so that she didn't become more upset.

She exhaled slowly, pressed her rib cage. Gave a faint wince. "I hate the waiting."

Sam said awkwardly, "They'll make it happen."

"Will they?" she asked, in a whisper. "Joseph's a crazy man. A wild card. I have no idea what he's going to do."

A fog of silence filled the dim room, a silence engendered by two strangers who were waiting to hear a child's fate.

"When exactly did it happen?" Sam asked. His suit was unbuttoned, his tieless dress shirt starched smooth as Sheetrock.

"When did Joseph kidnap her?" Gabriela asked; she wasn't afraid to use the word. "Saturday morning. Yesterday."

Forever ago. That was the phrase that had occurred to her but she didn't use the expression with this man, whom she'd only known a few hours.

"And how old is Sarah?"

Gabriela responded, "Six. She's only six."

"Oh, Jesus." His long, matte-dry face revealed disgust, a face older than that of most men in their mid-thirties. A jowl quivered.

She nodded, a token of thanks for the sympathy. After a pause: "I hate Sundays."

"I know what you mean." Sam's eyes regarded her again: the new black jeans bought on the run while she and Daniel were being chased through the streets of New York. They fit poorly. A bulky, unbecoming navy-blue sweatshirt. He'd been noting her mussed auburn hair, and a gaunt face whose makeup had long ago been teared away. He scanned her lean hips too, her abundant breasts, but clearly had no romantic or lustful interest. She reflected, Whatever his circumstances or preferences, I'm sure I look pretty bad.

She rose and walked to the corner of the apartment. There sat a black backpack, from which the price tag still dangled. She unzipped it, then withdrew a smaller gym bag and, from that, a skein of yarn, some needles and the piece she'd been working on. The strands were deep green and blue…

Echoing a line from a song.

One of her favorites.

Eyes red, demeanor anxious, Gabriela sat once again in the shabby plush purple chair in the center of the living room. Though she clutched the yarn, she didn't begin the rhythmic, comforting motion, so familiar, with the red knitting needles yet. She touched her mouth with a tissue. Looked at the wad, which was white as fine linen, now blotched red. Her fingers were tipped with polish of a similar shade.

Then, tap, tap, Gabriela knitted five rows. She coughed several times, pressed her side, below her right breast, her eyes squinting shut momentarily. She tasted blood. Copper, salty, bitter.

Concern rippling his brow, Sam asked, "If it's bleeding like that, shouldn't you go to the emergency room? It looks worse."

Gabriela gave a brief laugh. "That probably wouldn't be a good idea. Didn't Daniel tell you what happened this afternoon?"

"Oh. Sure. Wasn't thinking."

"I'll live with it until I get Sarah back. Then I'll have things taken care of. In the prison hospital, most likely." A cynical smirk accompanied this comment.

She studied the apartment once more. When she and Daniel had arrived two hours ago she'd been too preoccupied to notice much. In addition to being filled with beat-up furniture, and exuding a sense of the temporary, it was gloomy, particularly now in the oppressive dusk. She supposed this atmosphere was mostly due to the tall ceilings, small rooms, gray wallpaper flecked with tiny pale flowers. Her eyes went to the wrought-iron coffee table in the middle of the room. Its spiky edges looked like a weapon from a science fiction film.


The table set her nerves aflame. But she thought yet again, as she'd done so often in the past two days: Your goal. All you should think about is your goal.

Sarah. Saving Sarah is your only goal. Remember that, remember that, remember that.

Gabriela asked, "You work with Daniel much?"

Sam replied, "We've had a relationship with him and The Norwalk Fund for close to seven years."

"How many people've told him he looks like the actor?" She was thinking back to Friday night—could it really have been just two days ago?—meeting Daniel Reardon for the first time. Then later that evening: recalling his damp brow, speckled with moisture, and beneath, his blue eyes, which were simultaneously easy and intense.

"A lot," Sam said and again rubbed his bare, shiny scalp. "I don't get that much: Are you this or that actor?" He was laughing. He had a sense of humor after all, maybe.

"And the head of your company, Andrew—what was his last name again?"


"He's a fascinating man," she said. "I've never heard of a specialty like his before."

"Not many companies do what we do. He's made a name for himself. Travels all over the world. Flies a hundred thousand miles a year. Minimum."

She knit another row of blue and green. Tap, tap.

"And your job, Sam?"

"I'm a behind-the-scenes guy. The operations chief for the company."

"Like me," she said. "I run my company's office and…" Her voice faded and she gave a sour laugh. "I ran the office. Before all this happened." She sighed, dabbed at her mouth once more, examined the tissue and continued knitting, as if she was simply tired of receiving bad news. She gave him a wry look. "Operations chief also has babysitter in the job description?"

He opened his mouth—a protest was coming—but then he said, with a grin, "Was it that obvious?"

She continued, "It doesn't make a lot of sense for you to be involved in this except for one reason: to make sure I stay out of their hair."

"Daniel and Andrew are negotiating your daughter's release from a kidnapper. What would you do if you'd gone with them?"

She shrugged. "Scratch Joseph's fucking eyes out."

"That's what Daniel figured. Better for you to stay here."

"And if I wanted to sneak off to the meeting, how were you going to stop me?"

"I'd probably beg."

She laughed.

"What do you know about Joseph?" Sam asked.

The smile vanished like water in parched dirt. "He's a monster, a sadist." She cast a glance at the CVS drugstore bag, inside which they could see a bloodstain, paled by the white plastic.

Sam noted it too. "Daniel told me about that. Unbelievable. Who'd do something like that?"

She closed her eyes momentarily, brow wrinkling. "Joseph's big and intimidating. A bully, a thug. But you know what's worse? He's got this weird side to him. Like his haircut. He has real thick, blond curly hair, and he greases it or something. It's eerie. He grins a lot. And he's got this, I don't know, this tone when he talks. You heard him on speakerphone. Taunting. Giddy."

"You know who he sounded like? That character from one of the Batman movies. Heath Ledger played him. Remember?"

"Yes, you're right. Exactly. The Joker."

Suddenly Gabriela's fists closed around the knitting, as if she was going to rip the piece apart. A moment passed and she seemed to deflate, head forward, shoulders sagging. "God, what a nightmare—this weekend." A pathetic smile bent her lips. "Two days ago I was a mother with a job I loved. I'd just met Daniel and, you know, things really clicked between us. And now? My daughter's been kidnapped. Daniel and your boss might be on their way to get shot. The police are after me and I've done some… I've done some terrible things today. Oh, Christ…"

She nodded toward the window. "And apparently Joseph isn't the only one to worry about. The goddamn October List? Why did it end up in my lap?"

"It'll work out," he said, though they both knew the reassurance was merely verbal filler.

After a moment she asked Sam, "Why would Daniel do all of this for me? Anybody else would've been long gone."

"Why? He's got an interest in what happens."




Sam smiled. "He likes you. That's what he told me… And told me not to tell you."

She pictured Daniel's close-cropped black hair, his square jaw, his dancing blue eyes.

The actor…

She felt the rippling sensation, low in her belly. Had a memory of his lips on hers, his body close. His smells, his tastes. The moisture on his brow and on hers. "I like him too."

"Here's the thing," Sam said, sitting forward on the leather hassock. "No surprise: Daniel's good looking and he's rich and he's a nice guy. A lot of women see that and they think, Jackpot. But they don't care who he is, not inside. They don't connect. Daniel said you and he hit it off before you knew he had the boat and the fancy cars and the money."

"Yeah, our meeting was not the most romantic experience in the history of relationships." She gave Sam a careful gaze. "Okay, he likes me. But he's also doing this because of what happened in New Hampshire. Right?"

"He told you?" Sam seemed surprised.

"He did, yes. Sounded pretty bad."

A nod. "Oh, yeah. Changed his whole outlook on life. And, true, probably that is one of the reasons he's helping you. Kind of giving back for what happened. That was tough. You know, with his kids involved and all."


"Daniel doesn't tell everybody about New Hampshire. In fact, hardly anyone."

She stared at her knitting, the tangles of color. "God, it's so risky, what he and Andrew're doing. They downplayed it, but…" She pulled her phone from the sweatshirt pouch, glanced at the screen, slipped it back.


"Nothing." A sigh. She rose, walked to the bar and poured some red wine. Lifted her eyebrow. Sam nodded. She filled a glass for him and returned to the couch, handed it off. They sipped. No tap of glasses or toast, of course. Not now.

Gabriela sat and started to sip, but eased the wine away from her lips. She exhaled audibly.

"Are you all right?" Sam asked.

Frowning broadly, she was staring at a newspaper on the Alien coffee table. Scooting forward.

"My God," she said.


She looked up, eyes wide as coins. "I know what it is."

He regarded her quizzically.

"The October List, Sam." She slid the New York Times his way. He walked forward and picked it up. She continued, "I know what it means! The clues were there all along. I just didn't put them together." In a low voice, "It's bad, Sam. What's going to happen is really bad."

But before she could say anything more there came a noise from the front hallway: a click, followed by the distinctive musical notes of the front door hinge, O–oh, high–low. Stale air moved.

Gabriela rose fast. Sam Easton, holding his wine in one hand and the newspaper in the other, turned to the hallway.

"Is my daughter all right?" she cried. "Please tell me! Is my daughter all right?"

A man entered the room quickly. But it wasn't Daniel Reardon or Andrew Faraday, returning from their mission to save her daughter.

Joseph wore a black jacket and gloves and yellow-tinted aviator glasses. His glistening golden curly hair dangled to mid-ear.

In his gloved hand he held a pistol whose muzzle ended in a squat, brushed-metal silencer.

"No!" Gabriela gasped, looking toward Sam.

After scanning the room quickly, Joseph turned toward them, lifting the gun in a way that seemed almost playful.


5:50 P.M., SUNDAY

THE WAREHOUSE WAS just as he'd left it on Friday, when he'd been here making preparations.

Damp, brick walls covered with scabby light green paint, redolent of cleanser fumes and oil and pesticide and rust, lit by unkind fluorescents. One began flickering and Joseph rose from the table where he'd been sitting, took a mop from the corner, the strands molded into a mass, sideways, like windswept hair, and with the tip of the handle shattered the offending tubular bulb. There was nothing sturdy enough to stand on to remove it. Shards fell, dust too. The crackle was satisfying.

This building was similar to the one where he'd done his little surgery last night, the warehouse west of Times Square. Here, in SoHo, there was a demand for industrial spaces to turn into private residences—at astronomical sums, of course. This particular building would probably never be converted. There were no windows. Bad for resale to chic-minded lawyers and brokers. Good for Joseph's purposes, though. In fact, he could just make out a faint spatter of dark brown dots on the floor. Several months ago those discolorations had been bright red. The man had finally told Joseph what he wanted to know.

Solid brick walls. They absorbed the screams well.

Before returning to the chair, he walked to the heater panel, turned the unit up. Mold-scented air slipped out of the vents. Warmish. Still, he kept on his gloves—thin, flesh-colored cloth. Not for the comfort, though. Force of professional habit. Joseph recalled many times in the heat of summer when he'd worn gloves like these.

He sat once more, in the chair on whose back his leather jacket was draped. Pulling off his baseball cap and rubbing his thick golden ringlets, Joseph reached into the bag he'd brought with him and extracted the distinctive green box of Dom Pérignon champagne. He then removed from his pocket two mobile phones—his own iPhone, and the one lifted from the same apartment where he'd taken the boxed wine. His phone he set on the table. The other he scrolled through—clumsily because of the gloves—and noted the phone numbers and texts.

He set the Samsung down then stretched out his legs, checking the time. He wouldn't have long to wait. That was good. He was tense. You always were on edge at times like this. You had to be. He'd known plenty of men who'd relaxed when they shouldn't have. They were dead or changed for the worse, much worse.

But adrenaline got you only so far.

He glanced toward a door at the back of the warehouse, secured with a thick dead bolt. It led to a small storeroom. From beneath the door warm yellow light flowed. You could hear the Dora the Explorer DVD.

"Hey, Boots! Let's go over there!"

Joseph looked once more at the box containing the champagne. It was marred with a bloodstain on the side. Six dots in a row, like part of the Morse code for S-O-S. He knew the prestige of Dom Pérignon, though he'd never had any. This reminded him that he had a thirst. He rose and, walking stiffly from the chill, went to a cupboard in the corner of the warehouse, where he'd stashed a bottle of his Special Brew. He twisted off the cap and thirstily drank down nearly half of the contents. Felt the rush, felt the comfort.

Slow down, he told himself.

But then slugged the rest.

He wiped his lips on his sleeve. He set the bottle on the table. He'd take it with him when he left, of course, after slicking the glass with his telltale DNA.

Settling his heavy form back in the chair, Joseph winced at a sharp pain in his hip. He reached into the pocket of his jacket and removed the Glock 9mm pistol, dropped the mag and reloaded, replacing the two bullets he'd fired not long ago. He recalled the eyes of the victim staring at him in shock—too numb even to be afraid. Always curious, those moments just before the gun fired. People behaved in all sorts of mad ways. Heroic, pathetic, even blasé. He could write a book.

Joseph set the gun on the table and fished out the Gemtech silencer, checked to see that it was clear and then screwed it into the muzzle. Slipped the weapon into his waistband.

He glanced at his watch. The deadline was two minutes away. He wondered if—

A firm knocking resonated from the medieval door.

A glance through the peephole he'd installed yesterday. Daniel Reardon and a distinguished-looking businessman. Joseph tapped the grip of the pistol, to remind himself exactly where it hugged his body. Then undid the latch.


4:00 P.M., SUNDAY

IN THE LIVING ROOM OF THE apartment Daniel Reardon made introductions. "This is Gabriela McKenzie."

"Andrew Faraday," said the older of the two who'd just entered. The other man offered, "Sam Easton."

Hands were shaken. Sam was tanned, balding and had a craggy face, quick eyes. Andrew, pocketing the keys to the apartment, was in his mid-sixties. He had thick white hair, streaked with black strands, swept back and razor-parted on the side. Businessman's hair. Politician's hair. Andrew was leaner than Sam and Daniel and not particularly muscular. No more than five-nine. But Gabriela's impression, an immediate one, was that he was more imposing than the others. And not because of the age.

A natural-born boss…

Daniel said, "These are the people I was telling you about. I'm a client of theirs. Have been for years."

Gabriela and Daniel sat down on the decades-old couch, which released a more intense version of the musty odor she'd tried to eradicate from the apartment with the kitchen trick not long before.

Funerals, she thought. Funerals…

Daniel poured some more of the red wine. He lifted the bottle to her again. She declined. Andrew and Sam both took glasses. They sipped.

"Daniel was telling us about the situation," Andrew said. His voice was comforting, baritone.

She said with a frantic slope to her voice, "I don't know what to do! It's a nightmare. The deadline's in two hours! Joseph said I have until six and no extensions this time. After that…" She inhaled, exhaled hard.

The men seemed troubled by these stirrings of hysteria, as if not sure how to reassure her. Finally Andrew Faraday said, "Well, we have some thoughts."

Sam deferred with his eyes to Andrew. He was secondary or tertiary in hierarchy, she saw at once. She assessed he was dependable and loyal.

Daniel eased against Gabriela on the couch and she felt the warmth of his thigh against hers. He gripped her arm briefly with his long fingers. And she felt the strength she'd noted earlier.

"May I call you Gabriela?" The question was from Andrew. He seemed the sort who would ask permission. Proper, old-school.

"Sure, yes." She smoothed frazzled hair. Then stopped her busy hands.

Andrew continued, "First, so I can understand, Gabriela: Just to get the facts. This man who's kidnapped your daughter—Joseph, you were saying. That's his name, right?"


"He wants the document Daniel was telling me about. The October List?"

She nodded.

Andrew took in her hollow eyes. "And Daniel said you don't know what it means."

She shrugged. "Names and addresses. Maybe criminals. All we really know is that people are willing to kill for it."

Andrew said, "And no idea what the word refers to, 'October'?"

Gabriela glanced to Daniel, who offered, "It could be something that happened in October, in the past: a meeting, an event. Or," he added darkly, "it's something that's going to happen—next month. Given what we've heard, it might be something pretty bad. But, on the other hand, it could be nothing more than a name. A company, even a person. Or maybe a code. Number ten—the tenth month."

"Or," Gabriela said, "Daniel was considering anagrams."

"You can find some interesting words in 'October.' 'Reboot,' 'boot,' 'core,' 'rob.' But out of context, we just don't know."

"And there's this man named Gunther. But no clue how he figures in."

Andrew nodded, considering this. He leaned back and ran a single index finger through his hair. Gabriela now examined the newcomers' clothing: The men were in suits—coiffed Andrew's was dark blue, balding Sam's black, both conservative and expensive as hell. Dress shirts, blue and white respectively. No ties. Bruno Magli or Ferragamo shoes. The clothing and accessories were, as Gabriela's boss would say, "primo."

She said to them evenly, "I know I should turn it in."

"Turn it in?"

"If I had the courage, I would. I'd give it to the police, the FBI. They'd know what it means. That's the only moral thing to do. But I can't. The list is the only bargaining chip I have to save Sarah." Her voice caught. "I feel awful, but I have to give it to Joseph. I don't have any choice."

Daniel said firmly, "You didn't make this mess. Charles Prescott did."

Andrew asked, "Charles Prescott. Your boss, right?"

"Former boss now," she muttered. And inhaled hard, coughed. "Sarah." She closed her eyes briefly. "I can't imagine what she's going through."

"It's a beautiful name," Sam said, his first words since their greeting. There was a familiarity about him—the taut muscular physique, the casual angle at which he stood, calm eyes. Then Gabriela realized, with a shock, yes, the Professor! Though not familiar in life; at the funeral home, as he lay in the silk bedding of the coffin. And, of course, observed through the lens of tears—both then and now.

Andrew said, "Beautiful name indeed. Now, Daniel was telling me Joseph wants not only the list but some money too?"

Gabriela touched her fingers to her eyes. They came away damp. "That's right. A fee he paid to Charles." She inhaled deeply and said, "But I don't have that kind of money, a half million, even if I mortgaged my co-op. I…" She fell silent.

Daniel turned his blue eyes her way, reassuringly. Sotto voce: "It'll be okay, Mac." The nickname was comforting too. Pressure of knee against knee, thigh against thigh, the pressure of fingers on her arm again. His hand retreated; his leg did not. She felt the strength and warmth of persistent muscle.

"So," Andrew mused, "Joseph wants the list and he wants money." His illustrious face grew coy. "Think about it, though: He's taking a huge risk, possibly going to prison for the rest of his life, getting shot by hostage rescue teams. That tells us there's more at work here than greed."

"There is?"

Daniel filled in, "Joseph's desperate. He may seem confident. But he's scared. I'd guess he owes money to someone. Or he has to work off some other debt. A significant debt. Somebody's got major leverage on him—to pay off something. Or maybe to deliver the list."

"And that's good," Andrew offered.

"Good?" Gabriela asked.

Daniel explained, "It's always better to negotiate with desperate people."

"He didn't act desperate," she said darkly. "He seemed pretty damn confident to me."

"You've got the list?" Andrew asked.

"Not with us. It's safe, though. A friend of mine, Frank, has it in his apartment."


  • "Might well be Deaver's most fiendish thriller the pace quickens and the story continues to backtrack, solid evidence, established plot points and sturdily built characters all begin to come undone, until what started out as an interactive game becomes a truly unnerving exercise in deception."—New York Times Book Review
  • "Don't skip ahead to the beginning and spoil the fun that's guaranteed for anyone interested in a thriller that forces readers to use their brains in a creative way...Deaver is a master of manipulation and "The October List" is a small but powerful book."—Associated Press
  • "Thriller Award-winner Deaver (Edge) delivers a clever, demanding stand-alone...As the ingenious plot folds back on itself, the reader has to reevaluate and reinterpret the constantly shifting "facts" in the case. The finished picture finally emerges with a shock of recognition. This is brilliant craftsmanship in a vastly entertaining package."—Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)
  • "Elegantly clever...The novel takes a mischievous delight in misleading the reader, without ever outright cheating. It offers a delightful game of wits with the author."—The Columbus Dispatch
  • "Perhaps the cleverest of all Deaver's exceptionally clever thrillers. If you've ever wished you could take the film Memento to the beach, here's your chance."—Kirkus (STARRED review / "Best Book of 2013" )
  • "The premise is clever, but Deaver's ability to execute it successfully makes this experimental novel even more impressive. Revealing the ending first, he still manages to surprise with a few twists, constantly challenging readers' understanding of the story. Read it backward, forward, once or twice, to see how all the pieces fit together--just be sure to chase down this List yourself."—Shelf Awareness

On Sale
Aug 5, 2014
Page Count
336 pages

Jeffery Deaver

About the Author

Jeffery Deaver is the #1 international bestselling author of over thirty novels and three collections of short stories. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into 25 languages. His first novel featuring Lincoln Rhyme, The Bone Collector, was made into a major motion picture starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. He’s received or been shortlisted for a number of awards around the world. He lives in North Carolina.

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