Cover image for 24/7
Brown, Jim, 1956-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, 2001.
Physical Description:
373 pages ; 25 cm
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On a small Caribbean island a woman joins the newest reality TV show: 24/7. For Dana Kirsten, winning the $2 million prize could mean saving her child's life. But while the country watches her every move, Dana is entering a fight for her own life--and a conflict that will shake the world. . . . Vassa Island has been rigged with remote control cameras, a surveillance satellite system, and the most powerful television transmitter ever created. And that's not all. For a small fee, anyone with a computer can access any of the 638 cameras live twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week--and vote as twelve carefully chosen contestants struggle with each other and the island. But only fifteen minutes into the first live broadcast, the show's host and crew die a ghastly death. The shell-shocked contestants hear a voice echoing from hidden speakers: "I am Control, and this has just become the ultimate reality show." Suddenly the voice is hurtling the contestants through a maze of traps and macabre, individually designed puzzles. And when the world-wide audience votes one person off the island, it isn't just a loss . . . it's death. With every day unveiling a new terror, and as one man from the outside races to crack the Vassa mystery, the only real way to win 24/7 is to find Control. And stop him. But Control has plans beyond the desert island, spinning a dark plot that could hold the entire world hostage in a grip of death. A thrilling, original mix of action, mystery, and reality TV gone wild, 24/7 will grip readers from the first page to the last, as it builds relentlessly to an explosive finale.

Author Notes

Jim Brown is a broadcast journalist and a three-time winner of the Associated Press Best Newscast Award. As a reporter, Mr. Brown has covered the Atlanta child killings, the Stocking Strangler, Kip Kinkel, and other criminal cases. He lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a news anchor at the local NBC affiliate for the past ten years. 24/7 is his first novel.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Rejoice, all you television viewers sick to death of "reality TV." Here, finally, a reality show (a fictionalized hybrid of Survivor and Big Brother) gets what's coming to it, as a crazed psychopath takes control of the program and proceeds, in full view of the world, to kill off the contestants. The show itself, called 24/7, seems plausible enough: a group of men and women are placed on a Caribbean island and filmed 24 hours a day. The prize: two million dollars and the fulfillment of the winner's most cherished dream. The challenge: face your biggest fear. Even the thriller element seems strangely possible: a deranged individual somehow hijacks the show, takes over its technology, kills the crew, and injects the contestants with a virulent germ that will kill them within a day, unless they survive the challenge and win an antidotefilled needle. Veteran television broadcaster Brown packs his first novel with plenty of verisimilitude. He's also a good storyteller, and the novel is genuinely suspenseful, not merely a high-concept premise with nothing to support it. --David Pitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dunford's immensely satisfying sequel to last year's Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture picks up several years later with the same appealing characters. Soon found fledgling Toronto screenwriter Mitchell Draper and his friends Ingrid and Ramir in a sendup of crime dramas and Mafia Princess potboilers. This latest venture is a smart and self-aware parody of gothic murder mysteries, complete with a bevy of suspects, hidden staircases in a spooky mansion ("the kind of house that had inspired the game of Clue"), ancient secrets and even a giant party at the end that brings all the suspects back to the scene of the crime. Alert readers will catch references to Rosemary's Baby, The Haunting of Hill House and Scooby Doo. The biggest surprise is the book's gradual slide from hilarious homage to an honest-to-goodness locked-door mystery. Few will guess the outcome of the clever twists that tantalize until the final pages. Mitchell's idea that a 20-year-old father-son murder-suicide would make a blockbuster movie script finds him investigating the long-closed case and discovering new facts that may endanger him and his cohorts. Meanwhile, Ingrid is attempting reconciliation with her ex-husband, and Ramir has joined a charismatic cult whose leader was intimately involved in the tragedy. New characters are especially well drawn, notably dying designer Cortland McPhee, aging sexpot Gabriella Hartman ("one of Entertainment Weekly's 101 Stars Who Just Won't Give Up") and her Thelma Ritter-like psychic adviser Jane Choy. While some readers will be eager to see what genre Dunford turns his comedic talents to next, others will hope he settles into mystery for good. (Nov.) Forecast: The campy jacket photo of a screaming woman plays directly to Dunford's hip, mostly gay target audience. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This first novel by NBC broadcast journalist Brown is an uneven tale that involves uninteresting characters and unlikely plot twists, although it grows on the reader a bit. 24/7 is a reality TV show along the lines of Survivor, except it goes beyond the violence seen on the real-life program. The premise is that 12 contestants are stranded on a small Caribbean island to compete for $2 million. During the debut airing, however, someone calling himself "Control" hijacks the show and announces that the contestants must instead scheme for their lives. These miserable souls include a mother who needs the money to save her dying daughter, a pilot whose only faults are being too brave and too perfect, and several other characters who are either evil or whiny or colorless so that you know they'll meet a bad end. Overall, the big plot complications seem forced and arbitrary, and Brown gets some of the details wrong (Ebola is not a "flesh eating" virus, and vaccines don't act as antidotes). Not recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/01.] Patrick Wall, University City P.L., MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CARIBBEAN SEA The helicopter dropped from the sky, falling like a graceless bird toward the abiding sea. Dana Kirsten clutched her seat, willing her hands to be talons. The aircraft, which had seemed incredibly small in Jamaica, now felt positively minuscule. Like a coffin. The pilot nudged the yoke. The roaring machine responded like a spirited horse. The descent stopped less than a hundred feet from the water. The pilot looked at Dana, a plug of chewing tobacco causing his lower lip to protrude like a goiter. "You look scared. I thought you said you liked flying?" Dana took a breath just to see if her lungs were working. "Flying, yes. Falling, not so much." He laughed. The chewing tobacco formed a black teardrop on the corner of his mouth. "Wasn't trying to scare you. Well, I wasn't trying just to scare you. Wanted to show you something." He pointed out the right side. Below her in what had been a seamless sea, a school of bottle-nosed dolphins sliced through the placidity, carving white gashes in the blue-green canvas. Dana counted eight, then spotted another three dorsal fins farther out to the right. One pair swam so close together that, from her vantage point, it looked as if they were touching. "That's a mama and her baby," the pilot said. "Here, look at this." He flipped a switch and a monitor that sat between them winked to life. At first she couldn't tell what she was seeing, then as the pilot manipulated a small, pencil-size, joystick, the scene changed, revealing a close-up of the sea speeding beneath them. "I've got a geo-stabilized camera mounted under the bird. I'll be making a regular flyby while you're on the island. Here, you try it. It's easy. Forward is zoom in, back is pull out, left and right are left and right." Dana maneuvered the joystick. He was right. It was easy. Within seconds she had found and zoomed in on the dolphins. Sure enough, the one on the left, toward the protection of the pod, was significantly smaller than the one on the right. Mama protecting junior from the horrors that emerge from the wild of the sea. "They're incredible." "Thank you," the pilot said, smiling as if dolphins were his own creation. "Little odd though. Don't usually see them in this area. Got to be at least a dozen miles from the course they usually run." For a moment Dana wished she had a camera, then realized how silly that was. Once they landed everything she saw, said, or did would be on camera--everything for the next seven weeks. "You think that's something, watch this." The pilot hit another button. The scene changed to two people gauzed in static. He turned a small knob and the image cleared. "Television?" "Not just television." He flipped a switch on the side of the monitor. Voices issued from a tiny speaker. She could hear perfectly but couldn't understand a word. "Japanese television," he explained. "That's nice," she said, not sure what response he was looking for. "And not just Japanese. Chinese, Russian, every movie station in creation--I can get them all with this. My brother is in the Navy, works in electronics. He fixed me up with a special satellite dish that will pick up signals others can't. I can watch movies or TV shows from almost anywhere." "You speak Japanese?" "Nope, but if I ever learn, I'll have something to watch." The helicopter overshot the dolphins. "Do you have to go so fast?" she asked, her stomach still fluttering from their earlier drop. The pilot dabbed away the teardrop of tobacco with a handkerchief. "You're the one running late." Running late. She checked her watch. Late, of course. She hated her watch. Not that there was anything wrong with it. It was a good, durable timepiece. But it always seemed to be mocking her, a jeering, digital reminder of just how late she really was--again. This time, however, she had an excuse. Six months ago when she first tried out for 24/7, America's newest reality television show, she made it all the way to the final round only to miss out by one. Then, less than twenty-four hours ago, Nelson Rycroft, the show's creator, had called. A contestant had dropped out because of illness. Dana was the new contestant, number twelve. And now, thanks to that simple phone call, Dana Kirsten had a chance to win a miracle. She hadn't felt this good, this full of hope since graduating from high school. A time when, thanks to her talents as an athlete, the world seemed hers for the taking. She had just set two high school track records and won a scholarship to the University of Florida when she became pregnant. "I hear they've got a doctor, a fisherman, even a former nun on the show," the pilot said. "So what do you do?" "Depends on the day. Monday through Thursday I'm a checker at Save-a-Lot. Friday and alternate Sundays I work at a boutique in the mall. Saturday night I tend bar. But mostly, I'm a mom." "Damn," the pilot spit into a Dixie cup he pulled from beside his seat. "When do you rest?" Dana smiled. "Christmas." "So what's your husband do while you're off working all them jobs?" "I'm not married." "Oh." The child's father had been a junior in college the year Dana graduated from high school. She thought she was in love with him. And he thought she was a nice distraction from his studies. When he learned of the pregnancy, he went crazy, declaring that the child was not his and calling Dana a "whore," even though she had never been with another man. The last thing he said to her was "I never want to see you again." So far he had gotten his wish. Pregnancy derailed her plans, and the world that had seemed so bright and full of promise became dark and scary. Though devastated by the news, her parents were nonetheless supportive. But they weren't wealthy and the only way Dana could afford to support a child was to take any job she could find. Since it is difficult to run track when your body is being measured in trimesters, the scholarship disappeared and with it any chance of college. At eighteen, Dana Kirsten was on her own. Then Jenna was born and it was as if heaven had opened up and their brightest angel had tumbled into her arms. "How many kids?" the pilot asked. "Just one. A girl. Jenna. She's ten." "Got a picture?" "Does a dolphin have a blowhole?" Dana pulled a three-by-five from her breast pocket, one of the personal items she had elected to bring with her. The pilot looked at the snapshot, shifted uncomfortably in his seat, then handed it back. "Cute, ah, cute kid." Dana was so accustomed to the leg braces and arm crutches that she sometimes forgot how uncomfortable they made others. Jenna was two when the doctors diagnosed her with a severe form of muscular dystrophy. It would be a miracle, they said, if she lived to see her sixteenth birthday. "She, ah, been in an accident?" The pilot may have been ill at ease, but he was still curious. "Muscular dystrophy." He nodded as if, in addition to being the creator of dolphins, he was also a medical expert. "The Jerry Lewis disease, right?" So much for being an expert. "Yeah, the Jerry Lewis disease." It was a common misconception that there was one disease called muscular dystrophy. In reality there were forty separate neuromuscular diseases. Of which, the doctors told Dana, Jenna had one of the worst. At that moment a clock had begun to tick. An insidious tick, tick, tick, running in the back of her mind, counting down the seconds until Jenna was gone and Dana's world came to a crashing end. For ten years she had been consumed by fear and that ticking clock. She imagined an autopsy revealing deep ruts in her brain worn by the repetitions of the same question. How can I save my daughter? And now--she had a chance at a miracle. An experimental treatment, being tested in Switzerland but still forbidden in the United States, was offering great promise. It would be years before it was okayed by the FDA, ultimately too late for Jenna. But there was hope. The winner of 24/7 would receive two million dollars and--as the often-televised promo exclaimed--"his or her heart's desire." Dana's heart's desire was for Jenna to become part of the Switzerland test group. The island jutted out of the sea like a mole on the perfect face of the Virgin Mary. Vassa Island. Located between Jamaica and Haiti, it was roughly two square miles in size and shaped like a teardrop. At their low altitude Dana had to look up to see the top of the massive red-and-white tower rising obscenely in the tropi- cal air. It's like humanity giving the technological finger to God. She knew the tower was merely the most visible aspect of the most powerful television transmitter ever created--and just the beginning of the mechanical marvels awaiting below. Even so, an odd sense of foreboding settled over her as she gazed out the window. Sheer, white cliffs ranging from five to forty-five feet ringed the exterior. A small beach and a makeshift dock, both located on the middle part of the teardrop, offered the only ship access to the sea. The interior was covered in scrub trees, grass, and underbrush, while closer to the beach, the island was mostly exposed rock and erratic cacti. Made of raised coral and limestone, the island was porous. Sinkholes, the contestants were warned, were a very real danger, particularly following a powerful rainstorm. It was here that they would play the game. Twelve players competing for seven weeks constantly on-camera and being voted off one by one by viewers. But the real problem would be the challenges. Designed to their individual psyches, they promised to push contestants to face their greatest fears. All in the name of entertainment. Excerpted from 24/7: A Thiller by Jim Brown All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.