(creator: James Patterson)
|Anne Fitzgerald is an ex-nun who had quit her Dominican Order seven years before the story starts. She had then gone on to Harvard where she had "picked up my master's in psychology. My thesis, 'Firewalking: the journey from Ages Twelve to Twenty", became a book that was credited with having had an impact on the practice of teenage psychotherapy. I'd gotten into police work to earn my way through school, and I liked it more than I could have imagined. I spent three and a half years with the Boston police Department and enjoyed everything except the-old boy network at the top. So I left the force and got a licence as Private Investigator."
However. Cardinal Rooney of Boston had kept in touch with her and had since "hired me to work on a few delicate cases".
When she had been a nun for only two years, she had met and fallen in love with Father Justin O'Carroll, a handsome young Catholic priest - and she was to meet up with him again in Cradle and All. "Why had we been brought together again like this? .... It proved to me that God was a sadist." And that's about as far as her religious thinking goes. However, a dark haired man in a khaki raincoat, who seems to have been following her, laughs at her in a contemptuous way and tells her, "You know exactly who I am. I am your desires." And then "Right before our eyes, he was no longer there. He had vanished." And elsewhere she does hear a voice telling her "You must be brave and so strong now, Anne. That's why you're here. You are the bravest of all. You have been put here for a purpose." But what that purpose really is is not revealed until right at the end of the book.
James Patterson (1947 - ) was born in Newburgh, New York but, in his last year at high school, his family moved to Boston. He went on to earn a Bachelor's degree in English from Manhattan College, and a Master's degree in English at Vanderbilt University. He enrolled in a PhD programme, but eventually gave it up because he said it would "kill his writing instinct". He was taking drugs at this time, but, after a stay at the at the monastery of Gethsemani, theTrappist monastery in Kentucky, he gave up these too as he thought they would handicap his writing.
His first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, was published in 1976, after being turned down initially by twenty-six publishers, but it went on to win the Edgar Award for the best first mystery novel. It was followed by numerous other best-selling titles, many of them written with one or other of his seven or eight co-writers. He provides the co-writer with a 30-page outline, the co-writer fills in the missing parts and, after a final polish from Patterson, four or five books can be turned out each year. He now tops the New York Times bestsellers list with 39 bestselling titles, a number of which have been filmed. He also claims to be the the "most borrowed" author in the UK. The best known of these books are those that feature the forensic psychologist, Alex Cross.
Patterson is also a former chairman of the advertising company J. Walter Thompson, but, following the success of Along Came a Spider (published in 1992, the first of the Alex Cross books), he gave this up to become a full-time writer - or team-leader you might say. He once declared that he wanted to be known as “the king of the page-turners”.
He lives with his wife Susan and son Jack in Palm Beach, Florida, during the school year, and in Westchester, New York State, the rest of the time.
The story is told (partly by Anne) in an accomplished, fast-moving style. The author's main intention is to make it easy to read, so he uses very short chapters, paragraphs and sentences, and it does end up as quite a page-turner. His determination to hold our interest is shown by the way that he tries to end every chapter on a teaser that will keep us reading. So one chapter ends "She was drowning, and so was her baby" - even if she wasn't.
The unlikely characters include Father Nicholas Rosetti, who calls himself "a detective for the Church" and had been "given the divine gift of faith" and "knew the unthinkable" but kept hearing threatening voices in his head and "was sexually aroused" immediately he saw the young Colleen. No wonder, perhaps, that he is soon seeing devils everywhere, but when Kathleen tells him that she can see, right in front of her, lovers from her erotic dreams, he knows just what to do: " 'Leave us now!' he suddenly shouted and sprinkled holy water at the lovers. At the touch of the water, they turned quickly into animals - fierce dogs and howling wolves and bears standing tall on their hind legs. Kathleen stared in disbelief." As well she might.
It is Rosetti who tells Anne, "The Beast must be killed. The child of the Devil must be destroyed. The child of God must be protected at any cost to us. Any cost." But which was going to be which?
But, later on, when the dead Rosetti "stood before me where no one had been a moment before", she has recovered herself: "He was on his feet, but I could tell that he was dead. His skin was waxy and pale and blue in places his eyes showed no movement .... I looked at poor Father Rosetti in sorrow and shock. .... "In the name of GOD, be gone! You can't hurt me. Go! Damn you, go!" And off he went.
The two young teenagers are not too convincing either. When Anne, with her "degree in adolescent psychology. Experience with disturbed children at McLeane Hospital in Belmont " first sees Kathleen, her lovely face "reminded me of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There was no mistaking it." But Kathleen not only has visions of the Virgin Mary but also hears a Voice that orders her, "Tell them! Tell the truth, bitch! Tell them whose child it is!" But that is not enough to stop her hitherto friendly housekeeper chasing her with a murderous knife, screeching, "Satan! He is inside you! It's Satan himself. You can't deny it any longer!" You can see why Anne had to shoot her - even if why she was allowed to get away with it is not adequately explained.
And Colleen (the same age as the Virgin Mary was said to have been when Jesus was born), protected as she is by birds, or angels as she supposes them to be, needs to be protected not only from village boys who throw stones at her but from the new young local priest who had asked for a word with her in private, leading her to expect some important message from the Vatican, but he just "reached out both hands and he cupped her breasts". "No," she whispered. "Get away, get away! You're a priest. I'm pregnant." And the priest "began to moan and whimper".
The dialogue too can sound stilted as when Kathleen thinks to herself, "Anything can happen to me now. People have died, been murdered, plagues and sickness have broken out like nothing since ancient times. I feel as if I have stepped into the pages of the Bible."
Altogether, it is a book that goes for the only the most sensational religious ideas. It plays with them, but never really faces up to their implications, or even wants to.
The book is readily (and cheaply) available. Some of the readers' comments on the Amazon page are particularly revealing as reactions to the book go from one extreme to the other. Is it rubbish or a masterpiece? Well, it's no masterpiece ....
|The author's aim is to make his books as popular and easy to read as possible, so he goes in for short chapters, short paragraphs and short sentences.|
|In this book, a leaf is printed at a different position down the side of every page, so when you flick over the pages, it looks as though it is falling to the ground. A nice idea - except that it distracts the attention, and does not really have anything to do with the plot.|