James Patterson,
London Bridges
(Time Warner, 2004)

Let me admit right away that I picked the audiobook of London Bridges to while away a very long road trip from Florida to Chicago. Thrillers of this sort are not my normal fare, but I wanted gripping entertainment and James Patterson happily provided. London Bridges kept me engrossed and sane during a six-hour traffic jam in southern Indiana. No mean feat!

The book is an obvious continuance of Alex Cross's adventures. It can stand alone, as plenty of backstory is provided, but the plethora of side characters will leave the uninitiated confused. The CD opens with a spooky interchange between two villains, the Weasel and the Wolf. The secretive Wolf wants the Weasel's help in an evil, globe-spanning plot: the Wolf's cold-blooded methods in securing the Weasel's cooperation are a perfect testament to just how far he will go to get what he wants. And what the Wolf wants is lots of money and lots of death, not necessarily in that order. Unfortunately for former DC police detective, now FBI agent, Alex Cross, torturing his old nemesis is also high on the Wolf's priority list. As the structures start exploding, bridges begin to fall and the tragedies mount, Alex must find the elusive Wolf before the Wolf's trail of tragedy ends with Alex's home and family.

As a character piece, London Bridges has little to offer. Patterson's Alex Cross is painted in too simple a color palette, without the excellent gradations of, say, an Agent Starling. His villains, though deliciously full of campy evil, are simplistic. And his attempts at romance, particularly an embarrassing sex scene, are wincingly awkward. But for pure plot skill, Patterson rises to the head of the class. His twists and turns are brilliant and dizzying, but never lose the listener. And he plays with tension like the pro he is. While I would have liked a more dramatic reading from Peter J. Fernandez and Denis O'Hare, particularly from the voice of Alex Cross, I was still engrossed enough to scramble with changing the CD, to climb from one cliffhanger to the next. And with a book like this, what more could you ask for?

- Rambles
written by Tracie Vida
published 29 January 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.