There are reasons I find myself reading thrillers that have less to do with the thrills, less to do with the vicarious, Walter Mitty pleasure of someone fictional doing outlandish things while I sit in my chair, of being transported momentarily to their circumstances, or with the tension of these death-defying pressures and conspiratorial motivations having been brought to bear for my casual entertainment — reasons instead that have far more to do with the simple fact that the characters in such books (and in the good ones their authors as well) spend a lot of time listening very closely to their surroundings, interpreting the world around them with their ears and wits.
This following bit is from the novel Take No Names by Daniel Nieh. In it, a character has just messed up badly, risking drawing attention to his presence and that of a criminal colleague. He has nothing to do but wait to see if has endangered his life. Since this moment occurs a few pages into the book, the likely answer is that no, of course, he has not.
What further elevates that instance is one that comes earlier. Even before this character, named Victor Li (who was also the protagonist of Nieh’s previous book, Beijing Payback), comes to fear that his clumsiness has cost him everything, we witness him simply listening — not out of need, but out of habit:
That paragraph comes toward the opening of the same chapter. It serves to prime the reader’s awareness of Victor’s awareness. I’ll be listening along as I read further. I’m 25% of the way through, according to my trust ereader.