STEP ON A CRACK is a creative, well-crafted novel about a determined group of kidnappers and an equally determined NYPD detective who faces them down.
In James Patterson's latest book, a former first lady dies after dining in an upscale New York restaurant, and thousands of mourners turn out for her funeral. As her flag-draped coffin is carried up the central aisle to the front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, shots ring out. Mourners scramble for cover with the realization that armed men dressed as monks have taken over the church.
With Christmas a few days away and his terminally-ill wife in the hospital, Detective Michael Bennett, father of 10, is called on to begin negotiations with the kidnappers. As the hours turn into days and the talks wear on, Bennett is devastated by the loss of his beloved Maeve. He fears raising his children alone and wonders how his family will survive --- or even make it through Christmas --- without her. With the help of his grandfather Seamus, a Roman Catholic priest, and Mary Catherine, an au pair sent from Ireland, caring for the children at home, Bennett is able to focus on rescuing the hostages.
While the media digs for exclusives and law enforcement officials, including the FBI, peer over his shoulder, Bennett negotiates with "Jack," the kidnappers' ruthless and cunning spokesman. Initially they release most of the mourners, but those who remain behind are a "Who's Who" list of the wealthy and powerful, including billionaires, sports and entertainment superstars, and the mayor.
Bennett and the negotiating team try to coordinate the kidnappers' demands while devising plans to rescue the hostages. Yet, at every turn, Jack and his crew of bad guys anticipate the actions of the rescue teams. Bennett wonders, Who is behind the kidnapping? What is their real motive? And how can they pull this off without someone on the inside?
Lurking in the background is "the neat man," a vicious killer who orchestrates the daring event from outside the cathedral. With the clock ticking and the world watching, Bennett and his team try to capture the kidnappers and rescue the hostages. Bennett knows that if he fails, the consequences will be deadly.
The short chapters (a trademark of Patterson's), non-stop action and plot twists will keep readers turning the pages and guessing about the hidden lives of the kidnappers and the identity of "the neat man" until the very end. What sets this thriller apart from most others is the leap-off-the-pages character of Michael Bennett --- grieving husband, loving father and honorable detective. A modern-day hero, for sure.
Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on January 23, 2011