New Patterson novel provides thrilling read

Robert Taylor

Credit: Ron Soltys

The current king of crime novels, James Patterson, has churned out another of his Big Mac-like books; this one coming out only two months after the last was published. It’s called Step on a Crack, apparently the first book in a potential new series, and is better than the past six books he’s written combined. This probably has something to do with co-author Michael Ledwidge.

The premise is big on ideas and low on logic. After the death of the former president’s wife, the funeral is to take place in downtown Manhattan. Not-so-subtly disguised characters based upon such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Paris Hilton, Ben Stiller and Sting all attend, and then the cathedral is taken over by hostage-takers who make ransom demands.

Michael Bennett, the man who becomes the negotiator in the situation, does not want to be there. It’s Christmas day and his wife has less than a week to live before succumbing to cancer. Oh, and he has 10 kids whom he has to deal with alone now.

Patterson’s novels are the perfect reading for tired college students. With chapters that are often three pages or fewer (sometimes only three paragraphs), you can read five chapters a night and still feel like you’ve accomplished something major, even though you haven’t. While newer Patterson novels like Cross and Judge and Jury have imploded under the stress of cliffhanger after cliffhanger, it works to Step on a Crack’s advantage.

With so many characters to cover, the novel shifts viewpoints quickly and concisely with each new chapter, giving us just enough time to make us care but not enough time for us to begin to see the major plot holes.

The dialogue and descriptions are more in-depth and creative than most of Patterson’s normal beef-jerky fair, something that is safely attributed to Ledwidge’s contributions.

Something else found in Step On a Crack that is missing from the Alex Cross and Murder Club series is the element of surprise. In those series, the predictability of what we are about to be subjected to when we begin the novels takes much away from the enjoyment.

But here there is no easy-to-dissect serial killer; it’s a major hostage event with multiple characters in several subplots that are all heading for a hard-to-guess conclusion.

And though there are some of the usual Patterson clich‚s to be found here, like the main villain having a quirk (this time he is terrified of germs) or layering on the corniness about the family life, that is more of an annoyance for longtime Patterson readers.

There is one scene that has to go down as an instant classic moment. At a certain point, the Hilton-clone gets pepper-sprayed and thrown into a confessional, which you must admit is something you’ve always wanted to see. Or maybe that’s just me.

Whether the book’s hundred-plus chapters unfold for you over the course of an entire semester or in a three-hour wait at an airport, chances are you’ll find yourself engulfed in the surprisingly-taut thriller.

Step on a Crack

Written by James Patterson

& Michael Ledwidge

Published by Little Brown

and Company

Stater rating (out of five):


Contact ALL correspondent Robert Taylor at [email protected].