Tag Archives: james patterson

James Patterson – Double Cross

There’s a pair of serial killers committing murders all over Washington, and another one who has escaped from a supermaximum-security prison, and is on his way to wreak his terrible and long-plotted revenge on Alex Cross, the man who put him behind bars four years ago. Cross is an earnest psychologist, a former police and FBI profiler whose girlfriend Bree Stone is also the lead detective on the serial killer case.

But that’s enough serious consideration for a book this bad. Supermaximum-security prisons mean convicted killers have unrestricted, completely private access to visitors, and neither party is searched before of after? O RLY? And what’s the opposite of a thriller? A duller? How can a book this fast-paced be so boring?

Patterson’s habit of using a chapter for each scene, with rarely more than four pages of large, loosely spaced type per chapter, makes the pages fly by, but at the cost of excluding any character development beyond the strictly superficial. The action (what little of it there is) is bitty and fragmented, with all opportunity for tension drained by the urgent need to move on to the next exclamation mark! The villains are so cartoonish, they all but cackle and rub their hands in glee at how clever they are.

In fact, one of the last pages sees super-villain Kyle Craig pull the classic trick of pretending to be dead…then jumping up and showing his bullet-proof vest! Excuse the spoiler, but I just have to share this little gem:

Kyle started to back away from us. Then he smiled and said, “Oh, what the hell! Sorry, Alex!”

He fired in Bree’s direction — twice — and purposely missed again. Then he laughed and ran down the alley, disappearing around the first corner, still laughing.

The Mastermind.

Oooh, what a bad man! Do you think he’ll be back some day with a plan dastardly enough to pad out another 450 pages of this drivel? Let me think… Hmm, probably. And I fully expect it to be just as mind-suckingly dreadful as this one. Try to avoid it, too!

James Patterson – When The Wind Blows

I read this book on a recommendation from both my mother and my sister-in-law, and I’ve come away questioning their sanity. This is without a doubt the worst book I’ve read in the last year, and ranks very highly in my all-time awful league.

I had never read anything by James Patterson before this, but I had high hopes going in: the film “Kiss the Girls” (based on his book) was great, and I was looking forward to an exciting thriller with a touch of darkness to it. No such luck.

The main characters are flat and remain undeveloped throughout the book. Dial-a-stereotype must have been having a clearance sale: a maverick FBI agent (handsome, of course), whose wife and two sons died in an air crash, and who now fears flying; a talented veterinary surgeon (beautiful, of course) whose husband, a medical researcher, was murdered; a genetically modified young girl (spunky, of course) who has escaped from a top secret research institute. Yawn.

The only conflict between the characters stems from the initial meeting between Kit Harrison (Fed) and Frannie O’Neill (Vet), when Frannie takes an instant dislike to Kit because he is incognito, and looks like a hunter. It’s beyond obvious and well into blatant that they’re made for each other. And the only character development that takes place is Frannie overcoming her initial misgivings about Kit, swiftly followed by the two of them jumping into their first relationship after the deaths of their spouses.

If the plot had been better, I would have forgiven the characterisation. But it isn’t. A decent plot leaves some mystery, takes a few turns, builds up through some action and setbacks for the hero(es), then reaches a climax. Instead, this book takes the shortest route from point A (the girl’s initial escape from the evil institute) to B (I’d better not say, but it’s really no surprise).

The prose is leaden and unimaginative, but at least it flies by–small mercy. I normally read at 60-70 pages an hour, but I was doing 150 most of the way through this book. I had to ask myself every few pages why I was still reading. The only answer I could come up with is that I just couldn’t believe how bad it was. I kept hoping that something interesting would happen, that the genetic engineering would be given a stronger basis in reality and science, or have some kind of a neat twist to is. As it stands, though, the only scientific backup is provided in the author’s notes at the start of the book: Patterson boasts about the real doctors and geneticists who have read it, and claims the story is “tomorrow’s headlines”.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled. I read a lot of science fiction, and the underlying themes of this tale (the future shape and genetic possibilities of mankind) have been explored extensively and to much better effect in books like Greg Bear’s “Darwin’s Radio”, Nancy Kress’s “Beggars in Spain”, and many others. “When the Wind Blows” doesn’t examine the characters’ reaction to the genetic experiments going on, nor does it *glance* at the potential impact on society. As a thriller, it doesn’t satisfy my expectations of how the police or the FBI would react, or even common sense: why don’t they go to the media straight away?

I’m baffled by how this book managed to reach bestseller status. It reads more like a first novel dredged up out of the author’s trunk and dusted off after he’d reached stardom. I can only assume that Patterson’s other novels are substantially better, because this one is appalling.