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Staff Picks - Kelly in Andrews
1993
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Patterson, James

Publishers Weekly This second big winter thriller by a writer named Patterson (see Fiction Forecasts, Oct. 19) features a villain (a multiple-personality serial killer/kidnapper) whom the publisher hopes will remind readers of Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter, and a hero who is compared to those of Jonathan Kellerman. Unfortunately, the novel has few merits of its own to set against those authors' works. Hero Alex Cross is in fact a black senior detective in Washington, D.C., who is also a psychiatrist and has a facile but not entirely convincing line of sentimental-cynical patter. The villain is Gary Soneji/Murphy (read Hyde/Jekyll), who kills for recognition, and finally kidnaps the kids of prominent parents. Alex is soon on the case, more enraged by Gary's killing of poor ghetto blacks than by the Lindbergh-inspired kidnapping, and becomes involved with a gorgeous, motorcycle-riding Secret Service supervisor who is not what she seems. Soneji/Murphy is eventually captured--but can the bad part of him be proven guilty? There is even a hint at the end that he may survive for a sequel, though the reader has virtually forgotten him by then. Spider reads fluently enough, but its action and characters seem to have come out of some movie-inspired never-never land. If a contemporary would-be nail-biter is to thrill as it should, it urgently needs stronger connections to reality than this book has. Come back, Thomas Harris! 150,000 first printing; Literary Guild main selection. (Jan.)

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Library Journal Alex Cross, a black Washington, D.C., police detective with a Ph.D. in psychology, and Jezzie Flanagan, a white motorcycling Secret Service agent, become lovers as they work together to apprehend a chilling psychopath who has kidnapped two children from a posh private school. The psychotic villain, who aspires to become more notorious than Lindbergh baby kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann, is effectively nightmarish. Atypical characters, sex, sometimes shocking violence, and several surprising plot twists are all attention-grabbing, while short chapters with a shifting viewpoint add brisk pacing and genuine suspense. Patterson's storytelling talent is in top form in this grisly escapist yarn. Highly recommended for public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/92.-- Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.

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1995
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Patterson, James

Library Journal "Casanova" works the East Coast, "The Gentleman Caller" works the West Coast, and these two serial killers might just be working together. Washed-up Washington, D.C., police detective Alex Cross gets involved when his niece is abducted. Since this is a new work by the author of the best-selling Along Came a Spider (LJ 12/92), don't be surprised that Paramount has bought the film rights and that BOMC has made it a main selection.

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1996
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Patterson, James

Library Journal Patterson is back with another winner featuring black Washington, D.C. detective/ psychologist Alex Cross, who is hot on the trail of yet another serial killer. This time out, however, he's faced with double trouble in the form of a killing duo calling themselves Jack and Jill, who threaten to kill politicians and celebrities until they finally reach the president. After several spectacular murders, the police and the White House start to take them seriously. At the same time, yet another psychopath is brutally murdering black schoolchildren. Whew! All of this mayhem keeps Alex jumping and the pages turning. This entry follows Patterson's usual formula of very short chapters, breakneck pacing, and grisly murders followed by a truly surprising ending, complete with an appearance of Gary Soneji, the serial killer from Along Came a Spider (LJ 12/92). Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/96.]‘Rebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ. Calumet Lib., Hammond, Ind.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Patterson's popular protagonist, Alex Cross, wrestles with a double murder.

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Publishers Weekly Patterson's most recent thriller, Hide and Seek, lacked his customary hero, Alex Cross, and didn't catch fire with readers. Here, Patterson brings back the black psychiatrist and Washington, D.C., homicide cop (Kiss the Girls, etc.) for a gripping game of death that will have fans flocking. Two simultaneous investigations bear down on Cross: the first concerns the killings perpetrated by a duo known as "Jack and Jill," who are murdering famous people (beginning with a U.S. senator) in Washington, taunting the police and "practicing for the big one"; the second involves the brutal slayings of young black children in Cross's own Southeast D.C. neighborhood. The Washington P.D. makes Cross its liaison with a frantic Secret Service, FBI and CIA while he sets up his own off-duty team to track the child-killer. Through crisp cross-cutting of multiple points of view, first-person and third, Patterson grabs readers right from the beginning and sweeps them along toward riveting dual climaxes. He adds texture by devoting space to Cross's concern about his own motherless son and daughter (the first murdered child attended the same grammar school as Alex's boy), his growing interest in the school's attractive principal, his dealings with his octogenarian grandmother, Nana Mama (think of an acerbic Dilsey from The Sound and the Fury) and life in the largely black Southeast district. It's fine, full-blooded entertainment from start to finish, with a last-page surprise from an earlier Cross nemesis promising at least one more Cross installment to come. Literary Guild main selection; simultaneous Time Warner AudioBook. (Sept.)

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1999
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Dorsey, Tim
2002
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Singleton, George

Publishers Weekly Singleton expands upon the peculiar conceits of his debut collection, These People Are Us, in these 15 offbeat stories. Set mostly around the little South Carolina backwater of Forty-Five, they take on everything from racism to alcoholism to head lice, with plenty of laughs along the way. A hapless father clumsily tries to use his nine-year-old son to win back his high-school sweetheart (now the boy's teacher) in "Show and Tell," sending him off to school with old love notes, corsages and jewelry he had given her and making the boy pass them off as precious antiques. Another father launches a one-man crusade against a racist newspaper deliverer in "Fossils." "What Slide Rules Can't Measure" details the bizarre lives of denizens of the flea market circuit, while the title story follows an aquarium salesman to a bizarre motivational seminar, where he meets a scarred woman who sells audio books to the blind. "This Itches, Y'all" features a boy who fled youthful ignominy as the star of an educational film on head lice, then returns to his 25th class reunion to find unexpected celebrity. As in the first volume, the narrators tend to be relatively sophisticated men (or boys) who find themselves surrounded by feckless "pallet-heads." Some may find the tone of intellectual superiority condescending, but it's usually tempered by self-deprecation, to wonderful comic effect. Agents, Liz Darhansoff and Kristin Lang. (Sept. 13) Forecast: Singleton seems to be building up a reputation, as evidenced by a recent NPR feature, as well as appearances in Harpers, the Atlantic and other literary reviews. A national ad campaign and 10-city author tour will help keep up the momentum. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Book list To some readers, the mere threat of 15 stories about lovable southern eccentrics is enough to prompt a quick retreat north. Fortunately, Singleton's quick wit, keen intelligence, and empathy for his characters mean we can issue an "all clear" rather than a hurricane warning. Set in and around fictional Forty-Five, South Carolina, these often-hilarious tales depict ordinary people's struggle to evolve and adapt in an environment of religiosity and sometimes backward ways. Characters pop up in each other's stories as if demonstrating how interwoven our fates can be, or that--to use a metaphor of which the author might approve--we all shop at the same flea market. Whether writing of flea-market vendors, fishing-lure collectors, aquarium salesmen, or faux primitive artists, Singleton has a gift for rendering goofy situations poignant even as he slyly sticks a sociopolitical barb. No matter what their needs or dilemmas, we see ourselves in his characters. This fine collection reveals an author who, despite his penchant for evolution, has a gift for the act of creation. --Keir Graff

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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2004
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Hoffman, Jilliane

Publishers Weekly With this graphic serial killer/courtroom thriller, debut novelist Hoffman joins the lengthening list of high-powered legal ladies whose professional expertise serves as the basis for authentic, insider crime fiction. Blond, beautiful law student Chloe Larson is looking forward to a great future with successful New York businessman Michael Decker. Her expectations are shattered forever after a madman in a clown mask rapes and tortures her until she is near death. She survives physically, but psychologically slips into an extended mental breakdown. Twelve years later she's dyed her hair mousy brown and become unassuming, hardworking C.J. Townsend, assistant chief of the Miami Dade State Attorney's office. A suspiciously lucky break nets serial killer suspect William Bantling, and C.J. takes over the prosecution as part of her normal workload. When Bantling stands up in court and speaks, C.J. realizes he's the man who raped her years ago. C.J. learns that the statute of limitations has run out on her rape and that her involvement in that case might very well cause Bantling to be freed on a technicality. Love interest Special Agent Dominick Falconetti knows there is something seriously wrong as C.J.'s mental state begins to deteriorate, but she brushes off his concern and immerses herself in her work on the case. The far-fetched resolution will throw some readers, but Hoffman compensates with a compellingly horrific villain and an undeniably exciting final confrontation. (Jan. 5) Forecast: Linda Fairstein (whose own novel, The Kills, goes head to head with this one in January) broke the ground and set the standard for this subgenre, and Hoffman fits right in and ups the ante with an original premise and more-graphic-than-usual violence. This was a big, six-figure, two-book deal; the film rights to the novel went for a million bucks. Add a hefty marketing budget, multiple foreign rights sales, Literary Guild, Book of the Month Club and Doubleday Book Club sales, and it all adds up to blockbuster. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Book list Hoffman comes on to the scene with a vengeance in her debut novel. It's 1988, and Chloe, fresh out of law school and cramming for the New York State bar exam, has her future shattered when she is brutally raped and maimed; she blows off the exam and her would-be fiance because she is so haunted by the crime and the indelible mark it has left on her life. Cut to 2000; there is a serial rapist on the loose who doesn't just injure his victims, he carves out their hearts and leaves them for dead in conspicuous places. On the case is compassionate officer Dominick Falconetti of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and when a suspect is found, Dominick is teamed with C. J. Townsend of the Major Crimes Unit of the state's attorney's office. Together the talented cop (male) and aggressive prosecutor (female) build the case against the creep, but there is an urgency to C. J.'s actions that makes Dominick wonder about her motivation. This is a fine first novel, with twists and turns of the highest order and an ending that is downright breathtaking. --Mary Frances Wilkens Copyright 2003 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal What might have been a run-of-the-mill slasher thriller is raised to a new level by the skilled writing and obvious real-life expertise of first-time author Hoffman, a former Florida assistant state attorney. Chloe Larson, an attractive blond about to take the New York bar exam, is brutally raped by a creep in a clown's mask and left for dead. After recovering from a breakdown, Chloe starts a new life in Florida, becoming the assistant chief prosecutor in the State Attorney's Office in Miami. The safety of her new life crumbles, however, when she is called on to prosecute "Cupid," a serial murderer who preys on beautiful blond women, cutting out their hearts and leaving their bodies in grotesquely provocative poses. Recognizing Cupid as her rapist, Chloe vows to send him to the death chamber. But is her goal justice or vendetta? Is Cupid really guilty? The realistic procedural details, tight prose, and sympathetic characters combine for an impressive debut that will please Michael Connelly fans. Strongly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/03; with a $300,000 marketing budget and a 250,000-copy first printing, Putnam is expecting big things for Retribution; advanced reading copies were handed out at BookExpo America.-Ed.]-Rebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ. Lib., Hammond, IN Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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