Step on a Crack: Michael Bennett, book 1

Step on a Crack: Michael Bennett, book 1

‘STEP ON A CRACK: MICHAEL BENNETT, BOOK 1’


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OPENING LINE:

Don’t look now but we’ve got another hit from the James Patterson best seller factory.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

NYPD Detective Michael Bennett is about to take on the most sinister challenge of his career. The nation has fallen into mourning after the unexpected death of a beloved former first lady, and the most powerful people in the world gather in New York for her funeral. Then the inconceivable occurs. Billionaires, politicians, and superstars of every kind are suddenly trapped within one man’s brilliant and cold-blooded scenario.
Bennett, father of 10, is pulled into the fray. As the danger escalates, he is hit with devastating news: after fighting for many years, his wife has succumbed to a terrible disease. As New York descends into chaos, he has lost the great love of his life, faces raising his heartbroken children alone, and must somehow rescue 34 hostages.
Day after day, Bennett confronts the most ruthless man he has ever dealt with, a man who kills without hesitation and counters everything the NYPD and FBI throw at him with impunity. As the entire world watches, and the tensions build to a searing heat, Bennett has to find a way out or face responsibility for the greatest debacle in history.
©2007 James Patterson. All Rights Reserved; (P)2007 Hachette Audio


THE PLOT

Michael Bennett is a man with a lot on his plate. He is a father of 10, yes 10, adopted children. It is around Christmastime at the start of the novel, and his wife is in the hospital fighting an ultimately losing battle against cancer. His mother-in-law has arranged for a nanny to come help take care of the children, and his grandfather Seamus is also around to lend a hand.
That’s a good thing for Bennett because when a former first lady is murdered and her state funeral is hijacked, his work life is about to get a lot busier as well.
Several well-trained kidnappers have taken hostages at the state funeral of a popular former first lady. They’re demanding a large sum of money and have no problem killing their captives to make a point. The 34 hostages they keep at the church are all wealthy celebrities, which brings a lot of media attention to the case. Making things even worse is the fact that some of the hijackers seem to know what moves the police are going to make and how to push their buttons.
My only real criticism with the story is that some of the celebrities seem to be a bit too one dimensional and cliché. This is only noticeable when they are compared to other celebrity hostages. The NFL quarterback doesn’t seem to be as well constructed as the TV talk show host from LA who is a competitor to but also strongly resembles Oprah. Also, once the celebrities are freed, they just kind of vanish as Bennett still works to discover who the hostage takers were in the first place. One of the celebrity hostages gives Bennett a lead, but it’s one that is barely mentioned in the scenes where they are being held captive. I guess if we’re going to spend some time getting to know some of these characters, it would be nice for more of them to figure into the end.
That’s really a minor criticism though, because otherwise I really enjoyed ‘Step on a Crack’. Michael Bennett is a likable man with a likable family. His interactions with his children are humorous and heartwarming, and the same is true of the scenes with him and his ailing wife. My favorite interactions are between Michael and his grandfather. They clearly care deeply for one another and demonstrate that with a healthy dose of teasing. It feels realistic because it reminds me of a few relationships I have within my extended family.
I didn’t see the twist ending coming. If I don’t figure it out before the characters, it is usually for one of two reasons. Either it’s so nonsensical that I never would have guessed something so illogical or I miss some of the less obvious clues. In this case, it was definitely the latter, and I liked it because it was a surprise that made complete sense when you look back on how events unfolded. It isn’t so far out in left field that nobody will see it coming, as I’m sure many people did figure it out before me.


THE AUTHOR:

This is a pretty good illustration of how the James Patterson factory works. Patterson provides the idea for the story and where he would like to see it go, and whomever the co-author is adds in all of the details.
So in truth, a lot of the credit for the Michael Bennett series must be given to Michael Ledwidge. Bennett is an Irish Catholic and Ledwidge is responsible for working all of those elements into the story.
In a way, the Patterson factory of writing is actually genius. It allows him to be very prolific in terms of output but because he’s working with so many different co-authors, each series comes off feeling different from all of the others. This is why you’re unlikely to ever see a Private/NYPD Red/Alex Cross/Michael Bennett/Women’s Murder Club crossover. Each series takes place in its own world with its own style, and trying to combine any or all of them would be incredibly difficult, even with Patterson providing the central vision for the story.


THE NARRATION:

I thought both John Slattery and Reg Rogers gave good performances, especially Rogers. I was surprised to see that neither of these gentlemen have recorded a lot of audiobooks, with Slattery only having a dozen to his name and Rogers having just four.
It can be hard when you know that a certain narrator or narrators are going to be replaced as the series continues, especially if you think they provide a good voice to a character or group of characters. I’m experiencing something like this with Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series right now, in fact.


THE PRODUCTION:

There are some interesting things on this audio track. The first is that the chapter stops are placed at 5 book chapter intervals with the exception of one where advancing an audio chapter forward takes you from chapter 15 to chapter 18 and then the next track goes to chapter 20.
There is some music and a few sound effects. I don’t know how I feel about this. I don’t have a problem with sound effects in an audiobook, although I know that some people do. What I don’t like is if it’s not consistent. Why would one shootout be accompanied by sounds of guns shooting but not another shootout later? So as you’re listening to the book, it is really a guessing game as to when you might here background sounds.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

Thanks to a first in a series sale from Audible, I was able to acquire the first book in several of James Patterson’s series. I’ve listened to them all and I’ve reviewed most of them. I think that after reading ‘Step on a Crack’, the Michael Bennett series may be my new favorite. The reason is simple. In between all the big action scenes, there is a lot of heart. I realize that in a previous review I said that ‘Private’ had the potential to be my favorite. That is still true, but I think that the Michael Bennett series has gotten off to the best start of the ones that I have read so far.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
Step on a Crack: Michael Bennett, Book 1 James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge John Slattery, Reg Rogers Hachette Audio Mystery & Thriller 01/22/2007 6 hours, 54 minutes 8.5/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘STEP ON A CRACK’ was purchased from Audible for review.

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