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Friday, December 27, 2013


4 stars out of 5

Countless other reviewers already have let the cat out of the bag, so I won't hesitate to carry it forward: This book is a prequel to another one - and a totally unfinished prequel at that. Needless to say, the bulk of the other reviews I've read have not been kind (and that's putting it mildly). And I get it: Paying $7.50 for a Kindle version (or, at last check, the hardcover price of $14.50) only to find you'll have to buy the next book to learn how this one ends seems tacky, to say the least.

For what it's worth, here's how Patterson explains it at the end of the book: 

"Most of us have had at least some taste of tragedy in our lives...this is uncomfortable to experience firsthand - or even secondhand in a novel we've chosen to read...I ask that you understand that I wrote the ending this way because I am trying to be true to Alex - and to you, and to myself...I believe that to be true to life - and to art - one has to accept tragedy as part of it and, from there, allow for the human spirit - be it Alex's, mine, yours - to pull us through."

I'm not sure that's a good enough explanation, but I do know that had the ending (or lack of one) not been what it is, I'd have given it 5 stars. In fact, IMHO it's one of the best in the series about Detective Alex Cross that's come around in a while. Sure, there are a few spots that are sappy and contrived - true of all the books in the series - but all in all the plot held my interest all the way to the end that isn't an end. As Cross and his wife Bree work on separate murder scenes and try to locate a one-time foster child who's gone astray, Cross discovers they're all dealing with a madman who's a master of disguises and is out to destroy everything Cross holds dear - most notably Bree, his nonagenarian Nana Mama and his children - to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is such a thing as the perfect murder.

Truth is, I'm already pretty sure there've been quite a number of near "perfect" murders over the years. And were it not for the fact that I'll have to buy the next book if I really care to know how this one ends (and I'm not sure I'll do that), this book might have ended up near perfect as well.

Cross My Heart by James Patterson (Little, Brown and Co. November 2013); 450 pp.

Friday, December 20, 2013


5 stars out of 5

Eloquent. Thought-provoking. Simple. Complex.
How do I love thee? Those are just some of the ways. Without doubt, this is one of the best, most beautifully written books I've ever read. I couldn't wait for it to end, yet I kept clinging to the hope that it wouldn't.

To be sure, it's a story of good versus evil; it's full of fantasy, mysticism, hope and love interspersed with plenty of thrills and chills. It's Romeo and Juliet against the world, though not necessarily the world as we know it (but then again, it's exactly the world as we know it. It is narrated by Addison Goodheart (an allegorical name if ever there was one), who was born with a countenance so abhorrent to the "real" world that a mere look at him brings out an instant killer instinct. He lives in the shadows of society - the very bowels of the city, in fact - venturing forth only in darkness with his adopted father who shares his disfigurement. Then on one fateful night he meets Gwyneth, a young woman who herself is a fugitive from normal life. Totally unlike him yet totally like him, she, too, tries to make her way through a world that would destroy her if given half a chance.

Throughout, the writing is nothing short of exquisite. Every word is a treasure, creating sentences and pages that almost dazzled my mind. Mr. Koontz, I've always enjoyed your books. But for the life of me, I don't know how in the hell you're ever gonna top this one.

Innocence: A Novel by Dean Koontz (Bantam, December 2013); 352 pp.

Friday, December 13, 2013


4 stars out of 5

After finishing the previous adventure of bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, Notorious Nineteen, I pretty much decided to pull the rug on this series (I gave that one just 3 stars). The one-liners that used to make me snort whatever I was drinking out my nose barely elicited a smile, and I was beyond weary of a woman well past the bloom of youth who spent much of the book flip-flopping between the two "hot" co-stars: The mysterious security expert Ranger and her cop boyfriend Morelli.

But this book, happily, leans more toward the Stephanie Plum of years past. By the time I was a quarter of the way through, I'd snorted at least three times and chortled several times more. And while things remain a bit tense in the boyfriend department, it no longer overwhelms the rest of the story. And as usual, that story takes funny twists and turns as it weaves its way through the offbeat (to put it mildly) families of Plum and Morelli.

In fact, this one starts in a family way: Plum is charged with finding "Uncle Sunny," a mobster who bailed on his court appearance after being charged with murder. Problem is, he's family - Morelli's godfather, in fact - and in true mobster family fashion, nobody's talking. And when she tries anyway, accompanied by her self-described former 'ho' Lulu, Morelli's wacky grandmother, Bella, puts the dreaded evil eye on Plum.

In between there's bingo, Plum's wild and crazy Grandma Mazur and an errant giraffe named Kevin (don't ask), so there's plenty of action to go around. Fun!

Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich (Bantam, November 2013); 321 pp.

Friday, December 6, 2013


4 stars (out of 5)

Any time someone new "takes over" a series of books after an author has passed away, I'm a bit skeptical that the new guy (or gal) will do the original author up proud. In the case of Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, perhaps my all-time favorite character, it seems to me an almost insurmountable challenge. Since Fleming's death in 1964, I believe six authors have taken on the task, including such well-known writers as Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and Jeffery Deaver. Most did a passable job; in 2011, in fact, I gave Deaver's Carte Blanche 4 stars for coming up with an interesting story and doing a pretty good job following Fleming's style. 

Now comes William Boyd, also an award-winning author in his own right, who may be the best of the lot. No, he's not Fleming, but he manages to keep the "flavor" of Bond intact while writing a story that is intriguing, filled with surprises and, of course, plenty of action.

This one is set in 1969 just as British special agent 007 Bond reaches his 45th year. He's summoned to headquarters by his boss, M, who assigns him to go to Zanzarim. The West African country is in the throes of a civil war, and Bond is charged with the difficult task of stopping the rebels, thus ensuring that the established regime remains in place.

The difficulty, though, becomes nearly impossible once Bond gets to his destination and realizes that nothing is as it seems (and certainly not as he was told). The uprising is far from straightforward, and almost from the start, he learns no one can be trusted. A conspiracy is afoot, and Bond must figure out the real reasons behind all the violence and who's really responsible - hopefully without losing his own life in the process. This one's a page-turner that kept me hooked from beginning to end.

Solo: A James Bond Novel by William Boyd (HarperCollins Publishers, October 2013); 341 pp.