James Patterson,
Mary Mary
(Time Warner, 2005)

Many fans of James Patterson's novels are familiar with FBI agent Alex Cross. This character has even been portrayed in films including Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls. Back in the early days, Alex was a detective for the Washington, D.C. Police Department. His transition to the FBI has expanded his range, so to speak, as he searches for the nation's serial killers.

When Mary Mary begins, Alex has taken his family to California to enjoy some much needed vacation time at Disneyland. Unfortunately, a call from on high sends him on a detour to check out the murder of the famous actress Antonia Schifman. Not only was she shot, her face was slashed beyond recognition. An e-mail sent to the Los Angeles Times claims responsibility for the crime and recounts enough details from the attack that there is no doubt it's truly from the killer. It is signed, simply, Mary Smith.

As "Mary" shoots and slices more stars and high-profile people (mostly female) in the Hollywood area, Alex's detour becomes permanent. Mary seems to be targeting those who, in her mind, neglect their children and don't even have the courtesy to acknowledge, much less notice, the ordinary people whose paths they cross every day. Her e-mails to the Times suggest these so-called stars are simply getting what they deserve.

The voice of Alex is played by Peter J. Fernandez, a part he has played in many Alex Cross audiobooks. He is perfect for the part. Alex comes across as calm, cool, collected and intelligent. Mary Smith is acted by Melissa Leo. I'm not familiar with her work, but I can say her performance here has me convinced she is more than a little psychotic in real life. (For her sake, let's hope it is the acting.) The third reader for Mary Mary is Michael Louis Wells. His work on this audiobook complements the other performances.

Patterson has written a lot of novels. Besides the Alex Cross series, he has penned the Women's Murder Club books, as well as a few love stories and some books about winged children (not his best work). When his writing is good, this man produces high-quality entertainment. Unfortunately, consistency isn't his strong suit. When you run across one of Patterson's so-so books, you are bound to be more than a little disappointed because you know what he is capable of creating.

Fortunately, Mary Mary is one of the good ones. I enjoyed all seven CDs and even thought it ended a bit too quickly. The three readers might throw a listener off at first while trying to figure out who Mary Smith is or isn't. But, as the story rolls along and you become familiar with the cadence of the narrators, this is truly an audiobook to be enjoyed. I missed who the real killer was, even though a big clue is given in the middle of the book. I had the pieces of the puzzle by this point. I just didn't have them fit together quite yet. Perhaps you might link the pieces more quickly than I did.

by Wil Owen
22 April 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.