If you are not reading the Michael Bennett books by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, now would be an excellent time to start. There are two thus far --- STEP ON A CRACK and the newly published RUN FOR YOUR LIFE --- so you can be up to speed on the series easily enough.
Bennett is a driven New York City police detective who balances the high-pressure demands of his job with even more demanding domestic duties. A recent widower, Bennett is dad to 10 adopted children. He is assisted by his grandfather Seamus (who, by the way, is a Catholic priest) and Mary Catherine, a twenty-something au-pair who, if I am reading between the lines correctly, is ever so slowly becoming a potential romantic interest for Bennett, and vice versa.
Now, before you think you have stumbled into a literary relaunch of “Eight is Enough,” let me assure you that the focus of the Bennett novels is on bad guys --- really, really interesting bad guys. The one featured front-and-center in RUN FOR YOUR LIFE is The Teacher, who reduces Manhattan to chaos with a series of grisly, violent murders with no apparent link. An expert at weaponry, possessed of a twisted genius and propelled by an enigmatic motive that is grudgingly revealed over the course of the narrative, The Teacher is as unforgettable as he is deadly. He appears to be unstoppable; seemingly able to change his appearance at will, it’s as if he moves instantaneously from crime scene to crime scene, while along the way chastising people for their poor manners. His victims include a retail clerk, a French airline steward, a maître d' --- and then, of course, there’s that unfortunate corpse back at his apartment.
When The Teacher discovers through the media that Bennett is after him, he begins baiting Bennett, leaving messages for him at crime scenes. As he prepares for his ultimate act of vengeance, however, The Teacher gets up close and personal with Bennett, making Bennett a part of his twisted scenario that, if he’s successful, will give them both a dark place in history.
Patterson and Ledwidge have created a winning series here. The secondary domestic plot --- an influenza strain running through the household while Bennett is being pressured by his superiors to capture The Teacher --- is given just enough attention to provide a sort of comic relief from the grimness of the book’s main theme without distracting the reader entirely from it. The main attraction of RUN FOR YOUR LIFE however, is of course The Teacher. As dangerous as he is, his ultimate motivation is a bombshell that resonates long after the last sentence is read. The authors also provide enough loose ends to keep the anticipation for the next volume at a fever pitch. Jump on this series now and then tell your friends about it; you’ll look prescient in a year or two.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011