James Patterson,
The 5th Horseman
(Time Warner, 2006)

This is my first James Patterson book, and I listened to it on CD.

The plot (call girl serial murders and hospital mercy killings) suffers from superfluous threads that add nothing to overall story. I was surprised to read reviews about how short this book was, because it seemed like a good quarter of it could have been chopped out to improve the book overall. There is no development of the legacy characters, so as a newcomer, I was baffled about why narrator Boxer's female friends were mentioned, and what her boyfriend brought to the overall story. All characters are caricatures of themselves; everyone is either an angel or an over-the-top arrogant scumbag who laughs in the face of the police. No one is a moderate.

One element of the plot was downright offensive -- three call girls are raped and murdered, and when the author places us inside the head of the one, she's a honest, hard-working "good girl" who need to pay off some bills. This is her first and only time going on an escort call, after a friend talked her into it! She doesn't deserve to die! But ... being abused and killed is horrific no matter what, and your profession doesn't change the wrongness of crimes against women.

Do all of Patterson's book suffer from misinformation about police processes? Our cops have to trump charges because the minor offense a bad guy committed would have him out on bail in an hour. Oh, really? The cops couldn't delay his bail hearing just a bit while they scramble? He couldn't be a person of interest and be held for 24 hours?

Now that I've lectured this bestselling author about how to write a better book, allow me to praise audiobook reader Carolyn McCormack. She is so much more than a reader. She is an actress who got inside the head of main character Lindsay Boxer and owned the role. She had amazing inflection and accents for all the other characters, even minor witnesses. She used her pacing to raise the tension at appropriate moments. She captivated me, making me late for appointments because I wanted to keep hearing her story. The producer should also be congratulated for making good use of (very soft) background music in a few key scenes.

I may never read another Patterson, but you can bet that I will be watching the career of McCormack.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
19 August 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.