(Jump to read review of 1st to Die and more in that series)
"Run for Your Life"
(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale March 1, 2009)
He managed to switch off the ignition around the deployed air bag, then squeezed himself out of the seat. Things were nice and quiet now, except for the hiss of the cracked radiator and the soft splattering of the lawn pop-ups.
“That’ll teach her,” he said.
Then he stopped dead.
Teach her. Teacher.
That was it—the perfect name he’d been looking for!
“Erica, you finally did one useful thing,” he said softly.
He shook the Treo out of his damp suit and blooped it on.
At the bottom of his mission statement, below “Best Wishes,” he typed across the glowing screen: “The Teacher.”
One last time, he checked the recipient boxes to make sure the address for the New York Times was correct.
Then he hit Send."
Run For Your Life, the second book to feature New York City detective Michael Bennett is a great follow-up and even better read than Step on a Crack (2007). Despite the two year gap in the publication of the two books, the action in the book takes place just a few months later than Step on a Crack. As in the prior book, Bennett, a widower father of ten adopted children, faces the difficult challenges of his New York City police responsibilities along with the obligations and desires of raising his children. This time, Bennett has a house full of sick children while facing the multiple murders of “The Teacher.”
Despite the sick children, Bennett accepts the Police Commissioner’s request to lead the investigation of a murder of a clerk at a fancy Ralph Lauren store that may be related to a woman that was pushed onto a subway track. The Commissioner deems Bennett’s experience with the Catastrophic Response Unit as critical to leading the investigation. The Commissioner’s concern and his request of Bennett appear even more justified as the Teacher next strikes by murdering an obnoxious maitre d’ at a fancy New York Twenty-One Club. Although no real pattern emerges at first and the people committing these three crimes all appear different (although the reader knows they are by the same person), Bennett and the police believe these may be related.
At first these murders appear to be directed at somewhat random people or perhaps people that cater to the rich, but as Bennett and others in the police force, along with some help and hindrance of the media, soon find some pattern in the killings. Bennett is certainly the right detective to put the pieces together to stop the Teacher.
Fortunately, Bennett has some help at home to deal with his sick children in the young Mary Catherine, a live-in Irish nanny. Her patience and knowledge in dealing with all of the children make her appear older than she really is. However, her youth, beauty and ability in dealing with his children, may be providing some future romantic interest for Bennett. Bennett also gets assistance from his grandfather, a catholic priest who has some crime of his own to solve as someone is stealing from the church’s poor box. The parts of the story with these characters provides some interesting lighter and often humorous moments and a break from the suspenseful times when The Teacher is plotting and implementing his complex murderous plans.
Run for your Life is typical of most Patterson books, with short chapters, relatively easy reading style and enough interest that you’re always finding time to read it (until you quickly finish it). As in Step on a Crack, this book presents Bennett’s story in the first person and provides third person perspective of several other key characters, especially The Teacher. Although this book builds on the first book, enough back story information is provided to read this book without having read the first. However, I recommend that you read them both.
- Amazon readers rating: from 40 reviews
Read an excerpt from Run for Your Life at the author's website(back to top)
"Step on a Crack"
(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale FEB 27, 2007)
“She just died,” she said. “Caroline Hopkins just died.”
The Neat Man felt dizzy for a second. Like the wind had been knocked right out of him. He blinked rapidly as he shook his head, stunned and elated. “No,” he said. “Are you sure?”
The overwrought paramedic sobbed as she suddenly embraced him. “Ay Dios mio! She was a saint. All the work she did for the poor people and AIDS. One time, she came to my mother’s project in the Bronx, and we shook her hand like she was the queen of England. Her Service America campaign was one of the reasons I became a paramedic. How could she be dead?”
“Lord knows,” the Neat Man said soothingly. “But she’s in His hands now, isn’t she?"
New York City detective Michael Bennett, father of ten adopted children, has been having difficulty working and taking care of his family while dealing with the fatal illness of his wife Maeve when his life gets even more complicated when masked gunmen take hostage all the rich and famous people attending the funeral of Caroline Hopkins, the beloved wife of the former U.S. President Stephen Hopkins.
Despite Bennett’s obvious need to be with his family, the crisis at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Bennett’s skill and experience, make him a required man at the scene. When the police’s main hostage negotiator obviously fails in his attempt to intimidate Jack, the leader of the captors, Bennett quickly takes over and sooths Jack into working with the police. At first, Jack is calm and only seems to want money transferred into his account from all the rich people he has locked in with him at the church. After letting go the lesser known, and presumably poorer funeral attendees, he even lets the former President go. However, things take a few bad turns especially after an attempt to enter the church from an unknown underground tunnel fails, leading to the death of one of the captors. This increases the tension as a few famous people end up dead and thrown out of the church.
Jack, the inside leader, communicates through a dedicated and pre-installed phone line with the Neat Man, a fastidious man who also appears to be a germophobe, and true leader who works from the outside and apparently very near the action. We don’t find out who the Neat Man is until the end of the book, although I suspect Patterson gives clues throughout the book. From the outside the Neat Man is the one who warns Jack about the police’s planned attempt to enter the church from the tunnel.
As the police work to gather the requested millions of dollars from all the various business and family members of the hostages, Bennett does get to spend some time with his family. This includes the amazing Irish au pair, Mary Catherine, sent by Maeve’s parents to help out as well as Michael’s crusty but generally helpful, grandfather Seamus. Their help is especially needed since the captors keep the hostages in through Christmas.
Patterson and Ledwidge are obviously playing with the reader’s emotions by creating the near saint-like and dying wife of detective Michael Bennett and putting both of them and the children in an extremely depressing situation. Of course, she handles it better than anyone can and her masterful handling of her children and husband despite the illness is somewhat incredible. Nonetheless, it mostly works as you just can’t resist the charm of Maeve and her children.
James Patterson’s Step on a Crack is a good start on a new series and I’m definitely looking forward to more. Patterson and Ledwidge have created many interesting characters, in particular Michael Bennett and his family, along with Bennett’s co-workers. The book (and presumably future books) is told in both the first person of Michael Bennett and the third person perspective of several other key characters when Bennett is not present.
I’m sure I’m not alone on slowing down in the reading of Patterson’s books as he has branched out to often using other writers to help with his books. This tendency and his seemingly weekly addition to the bestseller list made me shy away from him for many years. I originally became a fan after reading Patterson’s first Alex Cross book, Along Came a Spider (1992), shortly after it was published and eagerly went back to the then mostly unknown early books, but hadn’t really read much of Patterson since Roses are Read in early 2003. (Black Market (1986) was probably my favorite of his early books but I almost didn’t finish Season of the Machete (1977).) I’m glad I gave Step on a Crack a chance as it had much of what I remember of Patterson – an entertaining book that’s difficult to put down, with good interesting family-oriented people, along with of course, a few evil characters.
- Amazon readers rating: from 196 reviews
Read an excerpt from Step on a Crack at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)
- Season of the Machete (1977)
- The Jericho Commandment (1979)
- Virgin (1980) (rewritten as Cradle and All)
- Black Market (1986)
- The Midnight Club (1989)
- Hide and Seek (1996)
- See How They Run (199?)
- Miracle on the 17th Green (1997)
- When the Wind Blows (1998) *
- Cradle and All (2000)
- Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas (2001)
- The Beach House (2002)
- The Jester (2003)
- The Lake House (2003) *
- Sam's Letter to Jennifer (2004)
- Honeymoon (2005)
- Lifeguard (2005)
- Judge & Jury (2006)
- The Quickie (2007)
- You've Been Warned (2007)
- Sunday at Tiffany's (2008)
- Sail (2008)
- Swimsuit (2009)
- Private (2010)
- The Postcard Killers (2010)
- Don't Blink (2010)
- Now You See Her ( 2011)
- Private: #1 Suspect (January 2012)
- Private Games (February 2012)
- Guilty Wives (March 2012)
- Zoo (September 2012)
The Women's Murder Club series:
- 1st to Die (2001)
- 2nd Chance (2002)
- 3rd Degree (2004)
- 4th of July (2005)
- The 5th Horseman (2006)
- The 6th Target (2007)
- 7th Heaven (2008)
- The 8th Confession (2009)
- The 9th Judgment (2010)
- The 10th Anniversary (2011)
- The 11th Hour (May 2012)
Featuring Alex Cross:
- Along Came A Spider (1993)
- Kiss the Girls (1995)
- Jack and Jill (1996)
- Cat and Mouse (1997)
- Pop Goes the Weasel (1999)
- Roses are Red (2000)
- Violets are Blue (2001)
- Four Blind Mice (2002)
- The Big Bad Wolf (2003)
- London Bridges (2004)
- Mary, Mary (2005)
- Cross (2006)
- Double Cross (2007)
- Cross Country (2008)
- Alex Cross's Trial (2009)
- I, Alex Cross (2009)
- Cross Fire (2010)
- Kill Alex Cross (May 2012)
Featuring Detective Michael Bennett:
- Step on a Crack (2007)
- Run for Your Life (2009)
- Worst Case (2010)
- Tick Tock (2011)
- I, Michael Bennett (July 2012)
- The Angel Experiment (2005)
- School's Out - Forever (2006)
- Saving the World (2007)
- The Final Warning (2008)
- Max (2009)
- Fang (2010)
- Angel (2011)
More Teen Sci-Fi:
Middle School series:
- Against Medical Advice: One Family's Struggle with an Agonizing Medical Mystery (2008)
- The Murder of King Tut (2010)
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- Official website for James Patterson
- MostlyFiction.com review of Women's Murder Club Series
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Beach House
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Jester
- MostlyFiction.com review of Honeymoon and Lifeguard
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About the Author:
After initially being turned down by twenty-six publishers, James Patterson's first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, was published and went on to win the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery Novel. That was in 1976 when he was just twenty-seven years old.
Twenty-three years later, Patterson has penned over one-half dozen novels and has created one of America's most memorable modern heroes, Alex Cross. With the publication of the bestseller Along Came a Spider in 1993, Patterson's popularity as a mastermind of page-turning thrillers was set. Kiss the Girls followed and was turned into a major motion picture by Paramount starring the inimitable Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross.
In addition to writing novels, Mr. Patterson served as chairman of J. Walter Thompson, North America from 1990 to 1996. He began his advertising career as a junior copywriter with the company in 1971 and went on to become the youngest executive creative director and youngest chief executive officer in the company's history. He made his mark at the agency by creating award-winning campaigns for Kodak, Burger King, Toys R' Us, Bell Atlantic, Bristol-Myers and others. He collaborated with advertising colleague Peter Kim to produce the nonfiction bestseller The Day America Told the Truth.
Patterson grew up in Newburgh, New York, fifty miles north of New York City. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Manhattan College and summa cum laude with an M.A. in English from Vanderbilt University.
James Patterson lives in Palm Beach County, Florida, with his wife and their young son.