Step on a Crack

Title:                      Step on a Crack

Author:                 James Patterson

Patterson, James (2007) and Michael Ledwidge. Step on a Crack. New York: Little, Brown and Co

LCCN:    2006023019

PS3566.A822 S74 2007


Date Posted:      October 17, 2014

This is the first in the Michael Bennett series by Patterson.

During a state funeral for a beloved former First Lady in New York City’s largest cathedral, the unthinkable occurs. Armed men disguised as monks seize the church and seal themselves inside, along with more than one hundred of the most powerful people in America. The captives include world leaders, actors, TV stars, athletes, and politicians, and the kidnappers are armed with enough C4 explosives to blow a crater in the middle of Manhattan.

NYPD officer Michael Bennett is pulled into the standoff as lead negotiator. Despite the escalating danger, Michael faces an even more terrifying crisis at home. His wife has been diagnosed with a devastating disease, and Michael faces the prospect of losing the love of his life and having to raise their ten children alone. With his own life teetering and the lives of thousands suddenly his responsibility, Michael struggles to diffuse the tense situation fast. Yet the kidnappers’ moves are impossible to predict, and they block every attempt to break into the cathedral almost as if they are privy to their deliberations.

It’s a thriller, and a good time killer. Not great literature, but very well written for its genre.

Miracle Cure

Title:                      Miracle Cure

Author:                 Michael Palmer

Palmer, Michael (1998). Miracle Cure. New York: Bantam Books)

LCCN:    98004884

PS3566.A539 M57 1998


Date Posted:      October 16, 2014

My Sister-In-Law Dene Anderson died in January, 2000 and I inherited this book along with her library. I liked reading the book, as I do most medical mysteries, but never thought of it as great literature. Here’s what Publishers Weekly thought about it. I concur

In this flawed medical thriller about the marketing of a new drug by veteran writer Palmer (The Sisterhood), one plot twist too many turns a frightening vision of corporate greed into an excuse for prefab heroics. The drug is called Vasclear, a heart medication being developed at the Boston Heart Institute by Newbury Pharmaceuticals. The FDA is being pressured by a Massachusetts senator (who, it turns out, is secretly taking Vasclear himself) to approve the release of the drug. And Vasclear may be the magic wand that can save the life of Jack “Coach” Holbrook, whose health is declining after a quintuple bypass.

Coach’s son, Brian (an M.D. living at home and working as a rental-car gofer while he recovers from an addiction to painkillers), not only faces the ethical dilemma of stealing the drug if he can’t place his father as a test patient but also finds evidence of potentially dangerous side effects—evidence that could derail the drug’s release to the public.

The characters are sitcom thin, the moral dilemma is barely raised before it’s resolved and the inclusion of a Chechen Mafia subplot only serves to transport the story further into an unlikely realm, where otherwise efficient killers do nothing more dangerous than send the hero a threat in the mail and members of drug and alcohol recovery groups know more about pharmaceutical companies than the FDA. Palmer’s thriller-friendly prose, pacing and plotting draw readers on here, but, like Vasclear, his novel should have spent more time in development before it hit the shelves.

Hostage Tower

Title:                      Hostage Tower

Author:                 Alistair MacLean

MacLean, Alistair (1980, 1983) with John Denis. Hostage Tower. New York: Fawcett Crest

OCLC:    09436294

PR6063.A248 H67 1983

Date Posted:      October 8, 2014

Here’s what a customer on Amazon wrote about the book. I have not read Air Force One is Down so I can’t comment on that book, but I concur with the rest of the review.

I had just finished this book’s sequel, also by John Denis, Air Force One is Down, so my expectations for Hostage Tower were at rock bottom. My expectations were not exceeded but spot on. Do not get me wrong. I am a MacLean fan, but that does not include being a fan of cheap MacLean imitations like this. John Denis has neither MacLean’s talent for spicing up a story with mystery nor his wit. Hostage Tower is a pedestrian, trivial, predictable hostage drama where everything unfolds as you would expect a hostage drama to unfold. No mystery. No wit. No plot twists of interest. A plot full of holes, ranging from the utterly silly or the obviously impossible to plain contradictions. A B-movie was filmed in 1980, based on this book. It is the least interesting MacLean movie I have ever seen. Read: Boring from start to finish. The film’s rating on the International Movie Database […] is as low as 5.3/10, which is a scandal for a “MacLean” movie. At least the film makers have the valid excuse that the script was useless from the start, but then again, why bother making a film out of it in the first place?

This book should have been titled “How to make money for MacLean and his publisher without actually going through the trouble of writing a book himself”. It may be tempting to make a quick buck out of a well-reputed name by having a B-author write a book and put a MacLean stamp on it, but in the long term, it risks discrediting MacLean’s name.

If you are desperate for something to read, for example if you are a hostage yourself and the alternative is staring into a wall or reading the yellow pages, or if you have been forced on vacation with your mother-in-law and need an excuse to distance yourself from her, then maybe this book can distract you for a couple of days. In most other situations, this book is a waste of paper.

The Osterman Weekend

Title:                      The Osterman Weekend

Author:                  Robert Ludlum

Ludlum, Robert. The Osterman Weekend. New York, World Pub

LCCN:       76165262

PZ4.L9455 OsMy Profile

Date Updated:      June 21, 2015

I like the Bourne series from Ludlum, even though critics pan it. Perhaps it is not as well written as some of Ludlum’s earlier works, such as The Osterman Weekend.

John Tanner lives with his wife and two children in a small town somewhere in New Jersey. He manages the news department of a TV-company, and his house and swimming-pool form a nice antidote for the stress of his job. He plans for the coming weekend to be more than enough of that antidote since the Ostermans, longtime friends, will be spending the weekend with his family. They have invited a few neighbors as well, a tradition for many years.

Small things annoy Tanner. For some reason the police seems to be everywhere, giving him the impression they’re keeping an eye on him. And then he’s called to Washington with a lame excuse. He learns that the CIA is watching his house because of Omega, a shadowy Soviet plan. And one of his friends among those will be visiting next weekend, the Ostermans, the Tremaynes, or the Cardones, are part of that plan. Tanner is maneuvered into accepting to go on with the weekend and pretend everything is normal, to allow the CIA to find out whom among the guests is part of Omega so capture becomes possible.

Paranoia begins to dominate Tanner’s life. Each of his friends seem to be hinting about Omega, each behaves suspiciously—or is Tanner’s mind playing games with him? Then suddenly one of the surveilling agents is found murdered, in Tanner’s backyard. Now the safety of his family is in danger.

The story has a sluggish beginning, but quickly lets the reader experience exactly what Tanner experiences: what the heck is going on? What information is correct? Who can be trusted? Tanner is just an ordinary human thrown into a not so ordinary situation. How would you react if you were in his shoes? You’ll find the suspense building up when he decides to stop riding along with events and starts to act, even if he knows just as little as the reader as to what exactly he’s reacting against. Leaving the reader in the same dark as the main characters is not something that works all the time, but in this case it helps making a real page-turner of this book.

Very un-Ludlum-like this book is not very long, a little over 300 pages. The book is condensed to its essential: a thriller that makes the reader want to know what happens. True, the characters are not too deeply explored, true, the plot could be more fitting. But that doesn’t matter—what matters is that this book does exactly what it intends: take you at full speed towards a finale that has some surprises hidden.