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Friday, August 14, 2015


4 stars out of 5

The family of NYPD detective Michael Bennett - his 10 adopted children, his Catholic priest grandfather Seamus and his off-again, on-again love, Irish nanny Mary Catherine - take back seats to the action in this, the 8th in the series. And I can't say I'm terribly disappointed. Yes, it's sort of fun to watch the kids grow up and (since I'm no spring chicken myself) a bit difficult to see what the aging process is doing to the good Father. But when it comes to the love interest, I've grown a bit weary; for the love of Killarney, either make an honest woman out of her or send her packing to the Old Sod.

In fact, that's where this one begins; Michael and Mary Catherine are in her native Ireland so she can oversee the sale of family property. When that deal goes awry, he leaves her to sort it out and heads back to work in New York City. He's concerned about Seamus, who recently suffered a stroke that may left left him in the throes of dementia. Before that can be determined with any certainty, however, an horrendous explosion rocks the city's subway. Before that dust has settled, with all law enforcement on high alert, a high-level government leader is assassinated - triggering a level of anxiety the city hasn't felt since 9/11.

Chapters alternate from Bennett's POV on the ongoing investigation and that of the two unknown to the cops bad guys behind all the murder and mayhem. Clearly, the pair are hell-bent on blowing the city to smithereens, but to me there was a bit of a comic element as well. Every time they appeared, I was reminded of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, the dangerous dudes from the cast of an otherwise unremarkable 1971 James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever

At least one more act of mass destruction occurs fairly early on and the threat of another, even worse disaster prompts an unheard-of evacuation of the City that Never Sleeps. As the story progresses, I concluded that someone must have done some serious research to bring the whole thing together, on everything from weapon-making to history of New York - and that's a good thing. And, it's always interesting to watch the police and FBI fight over turf and credit (don't these two factions ever see eye to eye)? Ah well, at least Michael still gets on well with his old FBI friend, Emily Parker. As the search begins to zero in on the culprits, some of their "aha" moments test the limits of believability, but the action never slows down and I read the whole thing in almost record time.

There's a little family tension as the Irish college student Seamus found to take over in Mary Catherine's absence tries to get them all to safety during the evacuation. The young man's obvious rapport with the youngsters and slick organizational skills (surpassed only by Mary Catherine herself) also made me wonder if he'll take over the job permanently if Michael and Mary Catherine ever do get hitched. 

Alert by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Little, Brown and Co., August 2015); 400 pp.

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