I'm familiar with The Polish Officer and Dark Star and I was incredibly disappointed with this book. Admittedly, I am interested in spy/espionage/thrillers with tension and suspense driving the characters. This book seemed mired in historical details piled upon details, most of which led nowhere, dramatically speaking, but more a statement by the author about his take on events past. A comparison, though perhaps not a perfect one, would be a very knowledgable history teacher telling a story set in the past in another locale, only to abandon storytelling frequently and elaborate on historical events at that time and place.
Perfunctory bits about the protagonist recalling women brushing up against him, musing about their name, sketching a past event with them, never had me engaged in relationships with them, therefore no sense of loss when things didn't work out, when they were left behind and lost.
Long sections attempting by the author to get into the heart of darkness of a man at odds with his environs and associates, felt like verbal angst from the author, not from character actions and resulting reactions. There were so many characters that in depth exploration was usually a stated opinion of the first person speaker, not displayed by characters Events were introduced in a way that built predictability of their outcome, drained suspense from one section to the next.
It was an effort to stay with this reading until the end, though the reader's character interpretations were captivating in tone at times. I'm not sure of the primary interest of readers who praise it but it's not a book I recommend for hounds of spy, thriller, espionage stories against international and historical backdrops..
The strongest element for me was the unique vocal performance for each of the southern characters, with the exception of the narrator, who seemed unaffected by his native state's dialect. Possible that one could lose their accent but seems noticeably lacking amidst so many other dialects from even the smallest roles.
Alex Cross has nothing whatsoever to do with this plot and using his name and having him make up an intro for three pages feels like a marketing ploy, sadly, to get Cross fans to buy the book,
The major weakness for me is the plot. It feels very predictable from the get go. I never thought the story would end differently than the way it seemed headed. Possible points of suspense during the trial were not developed, stereotypical character reactions left no room for unexpected plot twists and the actions of the main character/narrator in the last sections feel like an pre-adolescent reaction to a life threatening situation that will still exist with the people of the city and could wreak havoc on their lives long after the narrator has returned to Washington.
I saw Mr Patterson on an online Borders Books interview in which he stated he had many books in process, perhaps 17 or more, showing the title pages in folders in his home. He said he worked with other writers on these books, and also said he got payment before he worked on a book. It sounds as if authors come to him with a story, he does a rewrite, they continue to rewrite and his name goes on it. Unfortunately, as with the Women's Murder Club (at least the second and third of the series) quality of writing loses out to quantity of output.
Mr Patterson is gifted with dialogue and plot in some other works, and I only hope he refocuses his creative energy to maintain his obvious skills in remaining works.
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